Skills education in the 21st century has inspired researchers to develop competencies that can promote talent development [1
]. Among these abilities, mathematical ability plays an essential role in education, and mathematical ability is often referred to as mathematical literacy. Mathematical literacy, as defined by the OECD, is an individual’s ability to form, use, and interpret mathematics in various contexts, which helps an innovative, active, and reflective citizen understand the role of mathematics in the world, and make sound judgments [2
]. Mathematical literacy is closely related to educational success, career achievement, and national economic growth [3
]. It plays an essential role in the discussion courses of mathematics education objectives and has become the core vocabulary of mathematics education in recent years [4
]. In the information age, any educational research plan should consider the current and future needs for math skills [5
Many countries and organizations emphasize students’ mathematical literacy formation and development. The most apparent embodiment is the constructing of the curriculum system generated by mathematical literacy. For example, in 1959, the British Department for Education published the Crowther Report on the Education of 15–18-year-olds, in which mathematical literacy was creatively proposed for the first time [6
]. In 1982, Wilfred Cockcroft, an expert in mathematics education, published the famous “Cockcroft Report”, which pointed out that learning mathematics should help acquire not only knowledge and skills, but also develop mathematical literacy [7
]. The national literacy strategy was launched in 1996, and in 1999, it started in September [8
]. The British Ministry of Education issued the new “National Curriculum” (Mathematics), pointing out that the development of students’ mathematics literacy is still an essential goal of the mathematics curriculum, and “mathematical literacy and mathematics” and “language and reading literacy” are essential to the development of the national curriculum [9
]. This is a programmatic document for mathematics curriculum reform in British primary and secondary schools in the 21st century. Since the introduction of mathematical literacy in the UK, other countries have also made mathematical literacy an essential goal of the mathematics curriculum. For example, in 1989, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) issued the Standards for the Curriculum and Evaluation of Mathematics in Schools. The purpose of this document was to guide significant reforms in the teaching of mathematics [10
]. In 1998, a discussion draft of the new NCTM standards included mathematical literacy as a social need [11
]. In 2001, the Mathematics Learning Research Committee under the National Research Council set mathematical proficiency as the target for learning mathematics in Adding It Up: Helping Children Learn Mathematics [12
The plan proposed applying knowledge questions to develop problem-solving skills, and the ability to use mathematical language and tools, of two groups. They sought to measure the mathematical skills of students via their mathematics achievements [13
]. Developing countries also pay attention to the cultivation of students’ mathematical literacy. For example, South Africa released the “High School Mathematics Literacy Curriculum and Evaluation Standards” in January 2012, which focuses on teaching students both basic and applied math skills [14
Since then, China’s Ministry of Education has promulgated “ordinary high school mathematics curriculum standards (2017 edition) and the compulsory education stage mathematics curriculum standards (2022 edition)”. These course standards emphasize that math is a modern social norm and that everyone should have the essential skill, and they regard it as one of their objectives. In 2016, the Ministry of Education of China issued the Core Quality of Chinese Students’ Development. Subsequently, the Ministry of Education of China issued the Mathematics Curriculum Standard for Ordinary High Schools (2017 Edition) and the Mathematics Curriculum Standard for Compulsory Education (2022 Edition). Both curriculum standards point out that mathematics literacy is the essential quality that every person in modern society should have, and regard it as one of the goals of mathematics curriculum learning. As a programmatic document guiding mathematics curriculum teaching, the curriculum mathematics standard is essential to mathematics curriculum reform. It puts mathematics core literacy in the curriculum standard. It takes it as one of the objectives of mathematics curriculum teaching. The Chinese Mathematics Curriculum places a lot of emphasis on teaching students how to understand and use math.
Furthermore, many of the more critical international assessments also focus on mathematical literacy. For instance, since 2000, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development has carried out a round of the Program for International Students for 15-year-old students every three years (PISA). Each game of the test involves the assessment of reading literacy, mathematical literacy, and scientific literacy. Only one form of literacy is selected for the preliminary examination in each round, among which the PISA2003 [15
], PISA2012 [2
], and PISA2022 are the main tests of mathematical literacy. The Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) 2015 also include the assessment of mathematical literacy [16
]. Many scholars have also researched mathematical literacy. For example, Altun et al. revealed the difficulties Turkish students encounter in solving mathematical literacy problems through investigation [17
]. Bolstad et al. pointed out that students’ mathematical literacy is related to mathematical topics and contexts in their personal and professional life [18
]. Gatabi et al. found that Iranian ninth grade math textbooks contained significantly fewer questions related to math literacy, diversity of content, and opportunities for students to participate in mathematical modeling than those in Australia [19
]. Yasemin et al. believe that teachers’ effective use of mathematical language and their enrichment of visual materials in the curriculum can help improve middle school students’ mathematical literacy and visual mathematical literacy self-efficacy, and there is a high degree of positive correlation between mathematical literacy and visual mathematical literacy [20
]. Guzel et al. found a significant positive correlation between math literacy and math self-efficacy, and a substantial relationship between the interest in, enjoyment of, anxiety about math, and the subject climate of mathematics courses [21
]. Kaur et al. found that reading metacognitive learning strategies (comprehension, memory, and summary) is positively correlated with adolescents’ mathematical literacy. In contrast, two self-regulated learning strategies of reading (memory and refinement) were found to be negatively correlated with adolescents’ mathematical literacy [22
]. Kemal found that there was no significant difference in the level of self-efficacy belief among students with different learning styles [23
]. Gabriel et al. found that math anxiety was negatively correlated with math literacy, and self-efficacy, self-assessment, perseverance, and motivation were positively correlated with math literacy [24
]. Geary et al. found that boys and girls had more similarities than differences in terms of the development of mathematical ability [25
]. Canbazoglu et al. found that cooperative learning positively impacted pre-service primary school teachers’ mathematical literacy achievement and awareness [26
]. Kramarsk et al. found that students who received metacognitive instruction had higher levels of self-regulation (SRL) and mathematical literacy [27
]. Due to space limitations, only some of the research results on mathematical literacy are listed in this study. There are also many publications on mathematical literacy worldwide, indicating the availability of fruitful research results on mathematical literacy worldwide. So, based on the global literature on mathematical literacy research, it is essential to show the overall situation, research hotspots, and evolution rules of mathematical literacy. This will give researchers and policymakers new ideas and perspectives to guide future research and policy.
Goffman et al. argue that, in some areas, fundamental discoveries can be predicted by mathematical models and algorithms [28
]. Senturk et al. designed a new classification algorithm based on SLCD to help humans make the most accurate judgments in a given condition [29
]. In addition, diagrams are useful for visual reasoning, helping humans make judgments in given conditions [30
]. Based on algorithms and mathematical modeling, Eugene Garfield designed the HistCite software system, which can generate a chronological history highlighting the most cited works in the retrieved collection [31
]. In addition, the CiteSpace designed by Chen, Chaomei et al. based on Java can use algorithms and mathematical models to draw knowledge maps and visualize literature in a certain research field, thus revealing research hotspots and evolution trends [32
]. Thus, the HistCite software system and CiteSpace can reveal a certain research field’s overall situation and help humans make accurate judgments. In recent years, some scholars have conducted literature reviews and qualitative analyses on mathematical literacy research from a single perspective, such as sorting out the definition of mathematical literacy [33
], classifying articles on mathematical literacy [34
], and sorting out the literature on mathematical literacy by induction [35
]. However, these studies lack large-scale literature analysis and the use of big data to analyze mathematical literacy research, and systematically reveal the research hotspots and evolution rules in the area of mathematical literacy research. Of course, these literature findings are beneficial in helping researchers to understand the development of mathematical literacy. Still, they mainly rely on qualitative methods to analyze the contents and topics of the existing literature. However, more information can be collected through the comprehensive application of quantitative and qualitative analyses, making the research results conform to both subjective experience and objective data, which is more scientific and accurate. The overall situation, research hotspots, and evolution trends of mathematical literacy research are revealed from the five dimensions of publication trends, countries/regions, research institutions, researchers, and keywords in the field of mathematical literacy. This study can partially cover what other studies have not. Its main contributions are the following four points:
(1) Using big data to determine the publication trend of mathematical literacy research;
(2) Finding out which countries, regions, research institutions, and scholars have the most influence on mathematical literacy research based on big data, and how they work together;
(3) Identifying research hotspots in mathematical literacy research using big data;
(4) Determining the evolution trend of the mathematical literacy research field using big data.
The rest of this study is organized as follows: In the Section 2
, we describe the research tools, methods, and data sources. In the third part, we reveal the overall situation of mathematical literacy research from five aspects—publication trend, countries/regions, research institutions, author distribution, and highly cited literature. In the fourth part, we conduct a co-occurrence analysis and cluster analysis of keywords to reveal the research hotspots and evolving trends in mathematical literacy research. In the fifth part, we detail the main conclusions of this study and future work.
5. Conclusions and Future Works
In this study, the CiteSpace and HistCite software were used to visually analyze the literature in the field of mathematical literacy research, and the research hotspots and evolution trends in this field were obtained. This study addresses an important issue that arose in previous reviews in this field; namely, there has not been a holistic analysis of the field of mathematical literacy research from multiple perspectives through a large body of literature, nor has any study fully revealed the changes over time. The main conclusions are as follows: (1) It is found that during the whole research period, the quantity of published mathematical literacy research has shown a steady upward trend, which can be divided into three stages—the germination stage (1957–2001), the slow development stage (2001–2011) and the prosperous development stage (2011–2022). (2) It is found that the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Australia, and other developed countries have published a large number of papers on mathematical literacy research, especially the United States, which is in the leading position. Among developing countries, China has the largest number of publications. In addition, the United States is outstanding in international cooperation, and Germany, Australia, the United Kingdom, and China have also shown good performance in international cooperation. At the same time, it is also found that the University of Utrecht, Purdue University, and Vanderbilt University have important academic influences on mathematical literacy research. At the same time, it is also found that the University of Utrecht, Purdue University, and Vanderbilt University have important academic influences on mathematical literacy research. It is also found that the scholar Purpura has the highest number of publications, and LCS and GCS are also high. Although LeFevre does not have the highest number of posts, its LCS and GCS are relatively high. It can be seen from the author’s cooperation network that scholars do not show high cooperation intensity on the whole. In the future, developing countries should further study the field of mathematical literacy research, and researchers should further strengthen cooperation to promote the development of mathematical literacy research. (3) The research on mathematical literacy focuses on four areas—working memory and mathematical literacy, brain science and mathematical literacy, mathematical achievement and mathematical literacy, and mathematical literacy generation strategy. It mainly covers 10 clusters, including working memory (#1), parallel cortex (#2), math performance (#3), mathematics education (#4), early childhood (#5), parent belief (#6), fractions (#7), cognitive development (#8), and student learning (#9). (4) The mathematical literacy research evolution trend has been discovered; there are different evolution trends among different clusters in the mathematical literacy research time axis. Working memory (#1), mathematical education (#4), fractions (#7), and parental beliefs (#6) form clusters, which gradually expand from focused research to subdivision fields with the evolution of time. The parietal cortex (#2), math performance (#3), early childhood (#5), cognitive development (#8), and students (#9) clusters did not show large keyword nodes during the whole study period.
The current research has some limitations. First, we only selected the literature on mathematical literacy research from the SCI-E and the SSCI databases of the Web of Science, and the conclusions may not fully represent the situation of global mathematical literacy research. In the future, we will search for more literature on mathematical literacy research and analyze it. Second, our analysis of the research hotspots and evolution trends of mathematical literacy may not be in-depth enough. In the future, we will further explore the hotspots and evolution trends of mathematical literacy research using visual software and quantitative and qualitative analysis. Third, we will look at the research trends in the field of mathematical literacy in the future.