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Tuesday, July 14, 2015

False Hope a Problem in Adult Math Education

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Jamaal Abdul-Alim summarizes, "In order to achieve better math outcomes in adult education, the field must abandon a series of “false hopes” that essentially have set the system up for failure."
Photo: Diverse: Issues in Higher Education

That was the argument that Steve Hinds, director of the Chicago-based Active Learning in Adult Numeracy, made during a plenary session of the 22nd International Conference of Adults Learning Math, or ALM.
One in five students in the United States leaves high school without a diploma. Those who return to school later to earn their high school equivalency degrees will continue to stumble because their math teachers are often underpaid, rely on rote teaching and have little time to deliver content, Hinds said during a keynote speech titled “Improving What We Do for Struggling Adult Numeracy Students.”
He complained that adult education is beset with math curriculums that resemble the flawed curriculums that students endured before they left school.
“We hope the pedagogy that didn’t work for students when they were in middle school and high school will work better for them when they are older,” Hinds said in listing one of five false hopes that he believes plague the field.
“It’s very rote,” Hinds said of the predominant mode of math teaching. “When you ask students later what is math, they say it means remembering the steps.”
But this approach fails to help students understand the underlying concepts behind the steps, Hinds said.
“Guess what we do? We remind them of the procedures once again,” Hinds said. “We’re pretending that students knew this math before, it’s just been a while, they need to see it again, it will all come back.”
Hinds lamented how many adult education programs provide meager amounts of time for students to master math concepts they failed to learn in middle or high school.
“We hope that a large amount of math content can be learned over a very small number of class hours,” Hinds said, listing another false hope.
He said popular models where students are tested after eight, 10 or 12 weeks make little sense because they involve about 30 hours of instruction to cover the equivalent of two years of math.

Source: Diverse: Issues in Higher Education