Indigenous learners boost math skills with ABC Everyday Numbers

Francesca de Bastiani is passionate about the Skills for Success – the nine skills, as identified by the Government of Canada, that are needed to succeed in learning, work and life. With over 30 years of experience working in employment and training initiatives, mostly with Indigenous communities, de Bastiani runs a social enterprise called Paintedstone & Associates Learning Systems (PALS). PALS provides Skills for Success training, HR support and curriculum design, aiming to create enjoyable and meaningful learning experiences for adult learners who strive to strengthen their foundation skills.

ABC Life Literacy Canada approached de Bastiani to pilot its new program, ABC Everyday Numbers, a numeracy program for adult learners. With numeracy being one of the nine Skills for Success, de Bastiani was keen to get started.

No stranger to ABC’s offerings (she uses UP Skills for Work with many of her adult learners), de Bastiani integrated ABC Everyday Numbers into her Level Up program.

“The first workbook we used was called ‘Playing with patterns’, and it was a nice visual to show how patterns and numbers work together in creating design,” she says. “While teaching this workbook, we also invited an artisan from Cowichan Tribes to come in and talk about how she uses patterns to knit. It was very practical and generated a lot of conversation.”

De Bastiani often brings in guest speakers to make the programming more hands-on and to relate the learnings to real life. She also tries to connect the teachings to nature and Indigenous culture, and sometimes looks at other cultural practices from around the world.

“The learning material starts making more sense because we can insert our reality. For example, if someone is organizing a garden and has a specific amount of space, they can use math to divide the space and better understand how many plans they can use.”

De Bastiani says that math seems to be a topic that everyone seems afraid of, despite its importance. ABC Everyday Numbers aims to bring math to everyday life to demonstrate not only how and why math is important, but also to build learner confidence around those skills.

“Having those basic skills is a confidence booster. Once things start to make sense, your world opens up. Without these skills, people struggle and it is a challenge to learn new things.”

ABC Everyday Numbers currently offers three different workbooks: Playing with patterns, Multiply without memorizing, and Estimating. The first two workbooks are also offered as online courses through the ABC Skills Hub. Additional workbooks and courses will be released later this year.

When organizations sign up to host a workshop, they can request printed workbooks for their learners, and will receive evaluation forms, an honorarium of $25, and support from ABC Life Literacy Canada. Workbooks are easy to follow, and practitioners don’t require formal math training to deliver the program.

“The resources are great at generating conversation,” says de Bastiani. “I’m very grateful for those. They’re manageable enough to complete in a reasonable time and provide a sense of achievement. People can do parts of it on their own and other parts as a group discussion. The learners love them.”

To learn more about ABC Everyday Numbers, download free resources or book a workshop, visit