Teaching for mathematical literacy: School leaders’ and teachers’ rationales

Oda Heidi Bolstad 1 *
More Detail
1 Department of Language, Literature, Mathematics and Interpreting, Western Norway University of Applied Sciences, Sogndal, Norway
* Corresponding Author
EUR J SCI MATH ED, Volume 7, Issue 3, pp. 93-108. https://doi.org/10.30935/scimath/9537
OPEN ACCESS   738 Views   493 Downloads
Download Full Text (PDF)


This article reports a qualitative inquiry into school leaders' and teachers' rationales for teaching to develop students’ mathematical literacy. The study is rooted in an exploration of the meanings that the school leaders and teachers hold about the term mathematical literacy. Six leaders and three grade 9 mathematics teachers from three schools were interviewed. Analysis framed within cultural-historical activity theory indicates that mathematical literacy is perceived as a desired outcome of schooling, and that teaching for mathematical literacy is connected to school leaders' and teachers' contradictory rationales for teaching. The rationales are connected to use value, meaning, teaching practice, teacher competences and knowledge, and universality.


Bolstad, O. H. (2019). Teaching for mathematical literacy: School leaders’ and teachers’ rationales. European Journal of Science and Mathematics Education, 7(3), 93-108. https://doi.org/10.30935/scimath/9537


  • Breakspear, S. (2012). The policy inpact of PISA: An exploration of the normative effects of international benchmarking in school system performance. OECD Education Working Papers No. 71. In. Paris: OECD Publishing. Retrieved from http://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/docserver/download/5k9fdfqffr28-en.pdf?expires=1521547085&id=id&accname=guest&checksum=CDFCCF8C035C8B0E37C367894DD31FE8.
  • Colwell, J., & Enderson, M. C. (2016). “When I hear literacy”: Using pre-service teachers' perceptions of mathematical literacy to inform program changes in teacher education. Teaching & Teacher Education, 53, 63–74.
  • D’Ambrosio, U. (2007). The role of mathematics in educational systems. The International Journal on Mathematics Education, 39(1), 173–181.
  • Det kongelige utdannings- og forskningsdepartement. (2004). Kultur for læring. (Meld. St. nr. 30 2003-2004). Retrieved from https://www.regjeringen.no/contentassets/988cdb018ac24eb0a0cf95943e6cdb61/no/pdfs/stm200320040030000dddpdfs.pdf.
  • Ernest, P. (2004). Relevance versus utility: Some ideas on what it means to know mathematics. In B. Clarke, D. M. Clarke, G. Emanuelsson, B. Johansson, D. V. Lambdin, F. K. Lester, A. Wallby, & K. Wallby (Eds.), International perspectives on learning and teaching mathematics (pp. 313–327). Göteborg: Göteborg University, National Center for Mathematics Education.
  • Frankenstein, M. (2010). Developing a criticalmathematical numeracy through real real-life word problems. Paper presented at the Proceedings of the Sixth International Mathematics Education and Society Conference, Freie Universität Berlin.
  • Fried, M. N., & Dreyfus, T. (Eds.). (2014). Mathematics & mathematics education: Searching for common ground. Dordrech: Springer.
  • Grønmo, L. S. (2014). Grunnleggende ferdigheter - regning og matematikk. In J. H. Stray & L. Wittek (Eds.), Pedagogikk - en grunnbok (pp. 521–533). Oslo: Cappelen Damm Akademisk.
  • Haara, F. O., Bolstad, O. H., & Jenssen, E. S. (2017). Research on mathematical literacy in schools - Aim, approach and attention. European Journal of Science and Mathematics Education, 5(3), 285–313.
  • Jablonka, E. (2015). The evolvement of numeracy and mathematical literacy curricula and the construction of hierarchies of numerate or mathematically literate subjects. ZDM, 47(4), 599–609.
  • Leont'ev, A. N. (1978). Activity, consciousness, and personality. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall.
  • Leont'ev, A. N. (1981). The Problem of activity in psychology. In J. V. Wertsch (Ed.), The Concept of activity in Soviet psychology (pp. 37–71). Armonk, N.Y: M.E. Sharpe.
  • Mellin-Olsen, S. (1981). Instrumentalism as an educational concept. Educational Studies in Mathematics, 12(3), 351–367.
  • Mellin-Olsen, S. (1987). The politics of mathematics education. Dordrecht: D. Reidel Publishing Company.
  • Niss, M., & Jablonka, E. (2014). Mathematical Literacy. In S. Lerman (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Mathematics Education (pp. 391–396). Dordrecht: Springer.
  • NOU 2015:8. (2015). Fremtidens skole - Fornyelse av fag og kompetanser. Retrieved from https://www.regjeringen.no/no/dokumenter/nou-2015-8/id2417001/sec1.
  • OECD. (2012). PISA 2012 Assessment and analytical framework. Mathematics, reading, science, problem solving and financial literacy. Retrieved from https://www.oecd.org/pisa/pisaproducts/PISA%202012%20framework%20e-book_final.pdf.
  • Radford, L. (2008). The ethics of being and knowing: Towards a cultural theory of learning. In L. Radford, G. Schubring, & F. Seeger (Eds.), Semiotics in mathematics education: Epistemology, history, classroom, and culture (pp. 215–234). Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.
  • Roth, W.-M., & Radford, L. (2011). Cultural-historical perspective on mathematics teaching and learning. Rotterdam: Springer.
  • Sfard, A. (2014). Why mathematics? What mathematics? In M. Pitici (Ed.), The best writing on mathematics 2013. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
  • Skovsmose, O. (2011). An Invitation to Critical Mathematics Education. Rotterdam: SensePublishers.
  • Stacey, K., & Turner, R. (2015). Assessing mathematical literacy: The PISA experience: Springer International Publishing.
  • Utdanningsdirektoratet. (2012). Framework for basic skills. Oslo Retrieved from https://www.udir.no/contentassets/fd2d6bfbf2364e1c98b73e030119bd38/framework_for_basic_skills.pdf.
  • Watson, J. M. (2011). Foundations for improving statistical literacy. Statistical Journal of the IAOS, 27(3-4), 197–204.