Sparking Instruction from a Context

The Components of Numeracy is a document foundational to our field which considers how Context, Content, and Cognitive/Affective Factors work together to build numeracy. Here in our Community of Practice, I want to share a few resources I see as related, especially to balancing Context and Content. What would you add to this list?

Three-Act Tasks:

Notice and Wonder

Self-paced Courses:

Resource Collection:


Here are 6 tips that I think are important for instructors to consider as they build contextualized mathematics activities:

1.Use authentic materials. Whether it’s measuring devices such as micrometers or beakers, or data collection tools such as spreadsheets or paper charts, every profession has tools unique to itself. Find ways to get these in your classroom and provide your students with experience using them.


2.Get expert input. Learn from the professionals themselves and let them tell you what their mathematics environment looks like.


3.Think like the practitioner/professional. Once you’ve heard their input, figure out how professionals think in context. Find their patterns and shortcuts. Use the context to shrink the math and foster field-specific numeracy.


4.Find CCRS alignment. Use the CCRS to guide the sequence and rigor of your contextualized activities.


5.Build hands on activities. Very few careers engage in mathematics solely through paper and pencil or book work. Make the activities real! Hint: contextualized math will overwhelmingly deal with measurement.


6.Let the students look for ways to extend learning. As an ABE/GED teacher, there is no way you can know all of the specifics for every contextualization of mathematics. Share the burden with your students! Challenge them to show you (and your class) how they use mathematics in the careers they want.



Here are a couple of videos from Certified Nursing Assistant instructors. As you watch, look for ways that their take on the math is different from how it might be taught in a typical ABE/GED class. Also, look for patterns that an experienced CNA would come to memorize – that’s how the math shrinks!