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Skills for Success: Numeracy

The Government of Canada’s Skills for Success model defines Numeracy as “your ability to find, understand, use, and report mathematical information presented through words, numbers, symbols, and graphics.”


We can think of math as a special language that helps us do a wide range of tasks. These tasks include measurement and calculation, handling money, scheduling, data analysis, and estimation.

Numeracy is one of the 9 skills identified in the Government of Canada’s Skills for Success model. Launched in 2021, this model updates the original Essential Skills framework to reflect changes in the Canadian labour market and the modern workplace.

In the workplace, you may need to count inventory, do billing and payroll, estimate revenue, and analyze data of all kinds. In your personal life, this skill will help you manage your budget, take measurements for home improvements, and understand statistics in the news.

What does numeracy include?

The Skills for Success model divides numeracy skills into 6 components:

  1. Identify that the task requires numeracy. What question do you need to answer? Is mathematics the best tool for this task? What will the answer look like?
  2. Identify the mathematical information. Locate the key details, concepts, and other information that you need for this task.
  3. Make connections between related pieces of mathematical information. What information is known? What information is not known? How do the different kinds of information relate to each other?
  4. Apply mathematical operations and tools to answer the question. Calculate, order or sort, measure, or estimate. Combine the tools to complete a complex task.
  5. Interpret and evaluate the information. What is the task for? Are the data valid? What do the results imply? Check that the results make sense in relation to the question. Are the results precise enough to be significant?
  6. Share the information, results, and implications. Present the information in ways that are useful to your audience. Make a presentation, a table, or write a report.

Measuring numeracy

Your proficiency level is your ability to complete numeracy tasks of different difficulty levels. As you develop your skills, you’ll be able to:

  • Do more complicated operations and calculations, with multiple steps.
  • Translate tasks into mathematical operations.

For numeracy, the Skills for Success model defines 5 levels of proficiency. Here are examples of tasks that you might do at each level:

  • Level 1. Measure the dimensions of a room and calculate the area in square metres or square feet.
  • Level 2. Based on your current savings and your weekly income, work out how many weeks it will take to save up for a special purchase.
  • Level 3. Calculate how much a business will need to increase the price of a product if the cost of the materials used to make the product goes up by a certain percentage.
  • Level 4. Forecast a company’s sales using past sales data, industry trends and patterns, and statistical models.
  • Level 5. Manage the supply chain for a large organization by analyzing data on transportation costs, delivery times, and inventory levels to determine the most efficient way to move goods from one location to another.

Numeracy skills in action

Here are some examples of how people in different occupations apply their numeracy skills:

  • Construction estimators analyze costs and make estimates for residential, industrial, and commercial construction projects.
  • Economists analyze economic data and develop models to make predictions about economic trends.
  • Retail salespeople handle money transactions, maintain sales and inventory records, and calculate prices.

Numeracy strategies

As you develop your numeracy skills, keep these strategies in mind:

  • Practice regularly. Once you’ve learned the basics, take every opportunity to practise. Fun games like Sudoku puzzles can help keep your “math muscles” in shape!
  • Try to solve problems in different ways. If you’re a visual learner, sketching out a problem can help you get your head around it.
  • Keep a positive attitude. With math, there is usually a right and wrong answer, and we all make mistakes. When that happens, just go back and try again.
  • Take advantage of technology. Although it’s important to know the basics, you don’t have to solve every problem from the ground up. Many templates, spreadsheets, and other tools are available to help with daily tasks in life and at work.

Helpful resources

Online learning courses

Improve your core skills at home by taking online courses. Online learning offers courses covering a wide range of topics, and some platforms offer free courses or free trials. Find out what your options are by searching these online learning sites for the skills you want to build:

Check out these resources to help you assess and build your basic numeracy skills:

Explore the Skills for Success

Although particular skills may be more important in some jobs than others, all 9 skills in the Skills for Success model are needed for most occupations. These skills are not just about work—they come into play throughout our lives, forming a foundation for other technical and life skills, knowledge, and relationships.

Learn about the other skills for success:

Skills for Success: Numeracy (1:08)

Numeracy deals with understanding numbers. That’s a critical skill in today’s society. But the modern economy requires numeracy skills that go beyond basic arithmetic. Many jobs require the ability to work with numbers and math. Everyday life requires numeracy skills too. You need numeracy skills to manage your finances, make sense of statistics in the news, figure out your share of a restaurant bill, and more.

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