Communicating concepts of academic numeracy through a pattern-based approach

The term “pattern” is widely used in many domains, either colloquially or in scientific and technical contexts. Regardless of the domain of discourse, however, a pattern articulates fundamental, recurring system structure. As such, it embodies essential design knowledge that can be used in building and maintaining systems. It provides a solution to a problem that balances key forces in a given context. The best patterns are generative, teaching how to build the solution they propose, rather than just explaining it. Patterns are important to the practice of academic numeracy skills advisers for three reasons. First, patterns ground abstract concepts in context to aid problem solving, which is often cited as an important graduate skill and is an integral part of academic numeracy. Second, consideration of context brings with it consideration of constraints or forces that are driven by that context; patterns incorporate consideration of forces into problem solving. Third, success in learning mathematics invariably involves pattern recognition. Successful students recognise that while they may not have seen a given problem before, they know what kind of problem it is, and therefore know how to solve it, or recognise the pattern of the solution. This paper explores the application of a patterns-based approach to teaching academic numeracy skills. We provide an overview of patterns, patterns in pedagogy, and issues specific to the practice of numeracy education. Finally, we detail a key pattern, Getting Started, for use by academic numeracy advisers in teaching students problem solving skills, an essential component of academic numeracy. We argue that explicitly articulating underlying patterns such as Getting Started helps students recognize, grasp, and apply those patterns, as needed, thus improving their learning.

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Winn, Tiffany
Keuskamp, Dominic
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Title of Journal, Edited book or Conference and Page numbers: 
Journal of Academic Language and Learning, Vol. 1, No. 1, pp. A100-A112
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