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  • Writer's pictureDaniel Grainger

Why You Need Numerical Literacy in the 21st Century

We live in a data age, where, if we know where and how to look, we can find information on everything. Not most things, everything. Some of the information available will be inaccurate, some will be plagiarized, some genuine and some incredibly helpful.

If an individual is to maximize their own interaction with this available information, if they are to understand online marketing and sales tactics, if they are to identify patterns and sequences in trends and behavior, a modern citizen must be numerically literate (ACARA, 2017; Marseglia, 2010).

What is numerical literacy?

Mathematical, or numerical literacy, is the capacity of a citizen to identify and utilize mathematical skills in a cooperative society (OECD, 2000).

Numerical literacy has been a critical life skill for people living cooperatively in societies since people started trading. The modern citizen living in the landscape of the digital 21st century has an ever growing demand imposed upon them to be mathematically literate. 

By being numerically literate in the 21st century, we can better access relevant information, be resilient to irrelevant advertising campaigns, and make better financial decisions

How has numerical literacy changed over time?

More traditional elements of numerical literacy include being able to compare interest rates of different banks, find the best exchange rate for various currencies, leave the appropriate tip at a restaurant and knowing if you've got the cash to cover your food shop.

Many of these mathematical tasks are all largely tests of mental arithmetic or accurately recording and comparing numbers. Although these traditional numerical skills are still crucial to a successful existence within society, the modern demands of data handling and accessing reliable, relevant and accurate information via the internet are new demands imposed upon an individual's mathematical literacy (Prado & Marzal, 2013). 

How is being numerically literate beneficial?

By being familiar and comfortable with numerical literacy, an individual also guards themselves against the constant advertisement and personalized marketing that permeates the internet. By understanding how data is collected, analysed and utilized by large companies, a citizen living in developed 21st century society can reliably sift through and block out all the unnecessary visual, auditory, textual and contextual noise which is also generated by mathematics. 


By having the confidence to handle basic mental arithmetic, compare rates and charges, and be aware of trending behaviors, social patterns and marketing campaigns, citizens in the 21st century can prepare themselves to make sound financial decisions.

Numerical literacy help us save our time, our energy, and our money. To make the most from today's society, an individual must embrace and internalize numeracy. 

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