Measures are a cornerstone of mathematics and of our lives: it is difficult to think of anything that is not measured.
Baxter et al., 2006, page 6
Measurement exists in all human cultures as one of the six pan-cultural mathematics activities identified by Alan Bishop (1988) along with counting, locating, designing, explaining and playing. The influential Cockcroft report (1982) states that “it is possible to summarise a very large part of the mathematical needs of employment as ‘a feeling for measurement’” (page 85).
Measurement is the assignment of a numerical value to an attribute of an object, such as the width of a window or the area of an office. At more sophisticated levels, measurement involves assigning a number to a characteristic of a situation, as is done by the consumer price index. Understanding what a measurable attribute is and becoming familiar with the units and processes that are used in measuring attributes is a major emphasis in the Measurement progression. Experiences with measurement build understanding, making adults more aware of the dimensions of the world.85 Measurement also offers an opportunity for learning and applying other mathematics, including number operations, geometric ideas and statistical concepts.
The approach to measurement is a practical one, like the approach taken in the other numeracy progressions. The Measurement progression emphasises the appropriateness and precision of the measure to the particular measurement problem or task.
An understanding of geometry and a sense of space are fundamental components of numeracy. Adults use ideas of shape and space when representing and solving problems in real-world situations and in other areas of mathematics. Geometric representations can help people make sense of area and fractions, while the shapes and patterns in histograms and scatter plots can give insights about data.
Adults use spatial reasoning when following maps, planning routes, designing floor plans and creating art. The Shapes and Transformations progression and the Location progression are more about describing relationships and reasoning than about definitions and theorems.