7 Improving your skills in application of number
7.1 Introduction to improving your skills in number
This key skill develops your number skills in your studies, work or other activities over a period of time. To tackle all of this key skill, you need to plan your work over at least 3–4 months to give yourself enough time to practise and improve your skills, to seek feedback from others, to monitor your progress and evaluate your strategy and present outcomes.
Application of number (simply called ‘number’ in this key skill) is all about using numerical and mathematical skills to frame and solve problems effectively. Applying these skills may help you to tackle an activity or a problem that is part of a larger task. Once you have identified that you need to solve numerical or mathematical problems, you can use the three-stage framework to help you organise your work. For example you may need to collect data from various sources to explore an issue or answer a question, then do something with that data such as display it appropriately, carry out calculations on it, or use it to check the predictions of a mathematical model, and then interpret and present what you have found. The three-stage framework supports all these components of the key skill.
But the key skill of using number is not simply about working through calculations or drawing graphs, although they are useful techniques that you may need. It is knowing when using mathematical techniques can help you complete a task more effectively, how to carry out a range of mathematical techniques proficiently, and being able to make decisions about which particular technique you should apply to achieve a desired outcome.
Improving your number skills involves you planning strategically how you will go about developing your skills, as well as identifying which skills you should focus on. In monitoring your progress you will need to apply and practise your skills to achieve the goals you have set yourself and to reflect on, and possibly modify your approach in the light of your own assessment of progress and feedback from others. Evaluating your strategy and presenting results gives you the opportunity to demonstrate your numerical and mathematical skills, and to assess how successful your strategy was in achieving what you set out to do.