A whole-of-curriculum approach to improving nursing students' applied numeracy skills

Document Type


Publication details

van de Mortel, TF, Whitehair, LP & Irwin, PM in 2014, 'A whole-of-curriculum approach to improving nursing students' applied numeracy skills', Nurse Education Today, vol. 34, no. 3, pp. 462-467.

Published version available from:


Peer Reviewed




Nursing students often perform poorly on numeracy tests. Whilst one-off interventions have been trialled with limited success, a whole-of-curriculum approach may provide a better means of improving applied numeracy skills.


The objective of the study is to assess the efficacy of a whole-of-curriculum approach in improving nursing students' applied numeracy skills.


Two cycles of assessment, implementation and evaluation of strategies were conducted following a high fail rate in the final applied numeracy examination in a Bachelor of Nursing (BN) programme. Strategies included an early diagnostic assessment followed by referral to remediation, setting the pass mark at 100% for each of six applied numeracy examinations across the programme, and employing a specialist mathematics teacher to provide consistent numeracy teaching.


The setting of the study is one Australian university.


1035 second and third year nursing students enrolled in four clinical nursing courses (CNC III, CNC IV, CNC V and CNC VI) were included.


Data on the percentage of students who obtained 100% in their applied numeracy examination in up to two attempts were collected from CNCs III, IV, V and VI between 2008 and 2011. A four by two χ2 contingency table was used to determine if the differences in the proportion of students achieving 100% across two examination attempts in each CNC were significantly different between 2008 and 2011.


The percentage of students who obtained 100% correct answers on the applied numeracy examinations was significantly higher in 2011 than in 2008 in CNC III (χ2 = 272, 3; p < 0.001), IV (χ2 = 94.7, 3; p < 0.001) and VI (χ2 = 76.3, 3; p < 0.001).


A whole-of-curriculum approach to developing applied numeracy skills in BN students resulted in a substantial improvement in these skills over four years.

Find in your library