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General capabilities

In the Australian Curriculum, the general capabilities encompass the knowledge, skills, behaviours and dispositions that, together with curriculum content in each learning area and the cross-curriculum priorities, will assist students to live and work successfully in the twenty-first century.

There are seven general capabilities:

  • Literacy
  • Numeracy
  • Information and communication technology (ICT) capability
  • Critical and creative thinking
  • Personal and social capability
  • Ethical understanding
  • Intercultural understanding.

In the Australian Curriculum: Mathematics, general capabilities are identified wherever they are developed or applied in content descriptions. They are also identified where they offer opportunities to add depth and richness to student learning through content elaborations. Icons indicate where general capabilities have been identified in Mathematics content. Teachers may find further opportunities to incorporate explicit teaching of the capabilities depending on their choice of activities.


Students become literate as they develop the knowledge, skills and dispositions to interpret and use language confidently for learning and communicating in and out of school and for participating effectively in society. Literacy involves students in listening to, reading, viewing, speaking, writing and creating oral, print, visual and digital texts, and using and modifying language for different purposes in a range of contexts.

Literacy is an important aspect of mathematics. Students develop literacy in mathematics as they learn the vocabulary associated with number, space, measurement and mathematical concepts and processes. This vocabulary includes synonyms (minus, subtract), technical terminology (digits, lowest common denominator), passive voice (If 7 is taken from 10) and common words with specific meanings in a mathematical context (angle, area). They develop the ability to create and interpret a range of texts typical of Mathematics ranging from calendars and maps to complex data displays.

Students use literacy to understand and interpret word problems and instructions that contain the particular language features of mathematics. They use literacy to pose and answer questions, engage in mathematical problem solving, and to discuss, produce and explain solutions.


Students become numerate as they develop the knowledge and skills to use mathematics confidently across all learning areas at school and in their lives more broadly. Numeracy involves students in recognising and understanding the role of mathematics in the world and having the dispositions and capacities to use mathematical knowledge and skills purposefully.

Mathematics has a central role in the development of numeracy in a manner that is more explicit and foregrounded than is the case in other learning areas. It is important that the Mathematics curriculum provides the opportunity to apply mathematical understanding and skills in context, both in other learning areas and in real world contexts. A particularly important context for the application of Number and Algebra is financial mathematics. In Measurement and Geometry, there is an opportunity to apply understanding to design. The twenty-first century world is information driven, and through Statistics and Probability students can interpret data and make informed judgments about events involving chance.

Information and Communication Technology (ICT) capability

Students develop ICT capability as they learn to use ICT effectively and appropriately to access, create and communicate information and ideas, solve problems and work collaboratively in all learning areas at school, and in their lives beyond school. ICT capability involves students in learning to make the most of the technologies available to them, adapting to new ways of doing things as technologies evolve and limiting the risks to themselves and others in a digital environment.

Students develop ICT capability when they investigate, create and communicate mathematical ideas and concepts using fast, automated, interactive and multimodal technologies. They employ their ICT capability to perform calculations, draw graphs, collect, manage, analyse and interpret data; share and exchange information and ideas and investigate and model concepts and relationships.

Digital technologies, such as spreadsheets, dynamic geometry software and computer algebra software, can engage students and promote understanding of key concepts.

Critical and creative thinking

Students develop capability in critical and creative thinking as they learn to generate and evaluate knowledge, clarify concepts and ideas, seek possibilities, consider alternatives and solve problems. Critical and creative thinking are integral to activities that require students to think broadly and deeply using skills, behaviours and dispositions such as reason, logic, resourcefulness, imagination and innovation in all learning areas at school and in their lives beyond school.

Students develop critical and creative thinking as they learn to generate and evaluate knowledge, ideas and possibilities, and use them when seeking solutions. Engaging students in reasoning and thinking about solutions to problems and the strategies needed to find these solutions are core parts of the Mathematics curriculum.

Students are encouraged to be critical thinkers when justifying their choice of a calculation strategy or identifying relevant questions during a statistical investigation. They are encouraged to look for alternative ways to approach mathematical problems, for example, identifying when a problem is similar to a previous one, drawing diagrams or simplifying a problem to control some variables.

Personal and social capability

Students develop personal and social capability as they learn to understand themselves and others, and manage their relationships, lives, work and learning more effectively. The personal and social capability involves students in a range of practices including recognising and regulating emotions, developing empathy for and understanding of others, establishing positive relationships, making responsible decisions, working effectively in teams and handling challenging situations constructively.

Students develop and use personal and social capability as they apply mathematical skills in a range of personal and social contexts. This may be through activities that relate learning to their own lives and communities, such as time management, budgeting and financial management, and understanding statistics in everyday contexts.

The Mathematics curriculum enhances the development of students’ personal and social capabilities by providing opportunities for initiative taking, decision making, communicating their processes and findings, and working independently and collaboratively in the Mathematics classroom.

Ethical understanding

Students develop ethical understanding as they identify and investigate the nature of ethical concepts, values, character traits and principles, and understand how reasoning can assist ethical judgment. Ethical understanding involves students in building a strong personal and socially oriented ethical outlook that helps them to manage context, conflict and uncertainty, and to develop an awareness of the influence that their values and behaviour have on others.

There are opportunities in the Mathematics curriculum to explore, develop and apply ethical understanding in a range of contexts, for example through analysing data and statistics; seeking intentional and accidental distortions; finding inappropriate comparisons and misleading scales when exploring the importance of fair comparison; and interrogating financial claims and sources.

Intercultural understanding

Students develop intercultural understanding as they learn to value their own cultures, languages and beliefs, and those of others. They come to understand how personal, group and national identities are shaped, and the variable and changing nature of culture. The capability involves students in learning about and engaging with diverse cultures in ways that recognise commonalities and differences, create connections with others and cultivate mutual respect.

Intercultural understanding can be enhanced in Mathematics when students are exposed to a range of cultural traditions. Students learn to understand that mathematical expressions use universal symbols, while mathematical knowledge has its origin in many cultures. Students realise that proficiencies such as understanding, fluency, reasoning and problem solving are not culture or language specific, but that mathematical reasoning and understanding can find different expression in different cultures and languages. New technologies and digital learning environments provide interactive contexts for exploring mathematical problems from a range of cultural perspectives and within diverse cultural contexts. Students can apply mathematical thinking to identify and resolve issues related to living with diversity.


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