OVAE: Office of Vocational and Adult Education
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Mathematics in Adult Education and Literacy

Research and Evaluation | Noteworthy Practices | Additional Links

The primary emphasis in building research-based knowledge about how adults learn and improve literacy skills has been based upon the reading domain. However, since today's decisions are based on data, it is equally important for adult learners to develop and strengthen skills in mathematics, and for educators to identify what works best in developing those skills and create applications for adults. Mathematics skills are a gatekeeper for further education and training, and significantly affect employability and career options. Even for jobs requiring postsecondary education, employers seek employees who are proficient in mathematics, as well as reading; use math to solve problems; and communicate effectively. The role of adult basic education in strengthening mathematics skills is central to the U.S. Department of Education's vision for adult education.

Research and Evaluation

  • Foundations for Success: The Final Report of the National Mathematics Advisory Panel
    presented to the President of the United States and the Secretary of Education in 2008. The Panel reports that America has genuine opportunities for improvement in mathematics education. The Panel's charge, given in the Executive Order, is to advise the President and the Secretary on ways "...to foster greater knowledge of and improved performance in mathematics among American students...with respect to the conduct, evaluation, and effective use of the results of research relating to proven-effective and evidence-based mathematics instruction."

  • A Review of the Literature in Adult Numeracy: Research and Conceptual Issues [downloadable files] MSWord (558 KB)
    is an OVAE-sponsored review of literature on adult numeracy and adult numeracy instruction. The Adult Numeracy Initiative is the first major effort of the U.S. Department of Education to improve the research and practice of adult numeracy, 2006.

  • The Numeracy Environmental Scan (EScan) [downloadable files] MSWord (1.7M)
    examines recent and current adult numeracy professional development initiatives in the United States and informs future numeracy research and other initiatives at the state and federal levels.

  • Strengthening Mathematics Skills at the Postsecondary Level: Literature Review and Analysis [downloadable files] MSWord (400 KB)
    addresses the topics of: (a) defining the mathematical knowledge and skills necessary to pursue college-level mathematics and (b) identifying the elements of developmental mathematics programs within community colleges, the military, businesses, and organized labor that enable adult learners to transition from developmental to college-level mathematics.


Noteworthy Practices

  • The LINCS Basic Skills Resource Collection
    focuses on reading, writing, mathematics, and numeracy resources that can improve instruction in basic skills. These online subject-oriented collections of high-quality instructional resources are for use by adult education and literacy educators. The Mathematics and Numeracy collection contains research-based materials and resources that teachers can use to improve classroom practice.

  • The Adult Numeracy Instruction Project
    in collaboration with Teachers Investigating Adult Numeracy (TIAN), is working to expand the evidence-base for adult math instruction and provide adult education teachers and program administrators with professional development that will result in more effective numeracy instruction for adult learners. The project is analyzing the findings and recommendations of the National Mathematics Advisory Panel Report [downloadable files] PDF for relevance to adult education. TIAN is a separate project funded by the National Science Foundation with a professional development model is being developed and field-tested. The TIAN web site contains resource "bundles" that include materials for teaching numeracy and for professional development discussions about instruction and mathematics.

  • The American Mathematical Association of Two-Year Colleges maintains Beyond Crossroads Live!
    as part of an ongoing effort to support Beyond Crossroads: Implementing Mathematics Standards in the First Two Years of College [downloadable files] PDF. The goals of this document are to improve mathematics education and to encourage more students to study mathematics.


Additional Links

  • Drexel University Math Forum
    provides resources for improving math learning, teaching, and communication and has been active since 1992. Teachers, mathematicians, researchers, students, and parents use the site to learn math and improve math education.

  • National Center for the Study of Adult Learning and Literacy's Math Page
    page provides links to Focus on Basics articles, reports and teacher training materials that focus on Math and Numeracy to adult learners.

  • The System for Adult Basic Education Support (SABES) Math Bulletin
    provides ABE teachers ready access to important statistical and research data, as it seeks to introduce current research, math, and numeracy concepts and policies to teachers who are often too busy working with students to search out and digest such works in their entirety. SABES was established in 1990 by the Massachusetts Department of Education.


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Last Modified: 05/14/2010