How do you make numeracy fun? Good question! I was hopeless at math at school and I have not grown any fonder of it since leaving school in 1979. Now as an ESL teacher I am supposed to embrace numeracy like some long lost cousin and instill a sense of joy and understanding in my students. I thought long and hard and found the perfect solution.
Introduction to the class: Target Language: "I would like to buy _ metres of this fabric". "How much per metre is it?" "How many metres do I need" etc
Step 1: Book the school bus, fill out necessary paperwork (anyone would think I was going to kidnap them with the red tape I go through to get them out of school!)
Step 2: Head for Spotlight, we are a sewing class after all. (For those of you not in Australia, Spotlight is a major chain of fabric & haberdashery suppliers). Spotlight to me is like Bunnings Hardware depot to my husband; almost a creche for grown ups. He can drop me off and do his own thing for hours before returning to help me fill the car with bags of fabric and notions that "were on special and I saved heaps sweetheart" The look is enough but I have learned to ignore it. The school trip to the store is of course filled with "are we there yet" and a couple of versions of The Wheels on the Bus and Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree. You are never too old to learn these.
Step 3:Arrive at Spotlight and try to park. You have to be there to appreciate just how funny it is to be guided into a car park in a 12 seater bus by a group of non English speaking students. Give last minute instructions on not wandering off and do a last head count then in we go.
Ask each of the students to find some fabric that they love and work out how many metres they need, how much is will cost and then work out the 10-20% discount that we will get for buying in quantity or buying sale items. Get them to list the haberdashery items that they will require to finish the skirts they are making. They write down the prices and quantity they will need (handouts supplied before we left class). Field a million questions from students who have never been shopping like this before. Explain to the Thai students that there is no tailor here to whip up a suit for you for 500 baht and then head back to the bus exhausted, but satisfied that I didn't have to teach them maths at all, they taught it to themselves!
Hands on, real time, real life. This information and exposure to everyday language stays with them. We go back to class and drill some of the words and phrases that we have had to use. Answer more probing questions about the cost of having a suit made in Australia and send them all home with a homework sheet about adding and multiplying.
Job done and now looking forward to quantum physics. ScienceWorld here we come!