Teaching Math Skills to Adult Learners

Many adult learners approach math with anxiety and frustration.  Negative previous experiences with math instruction create legitimate barriers for many adult learners.  Math, though, is a skill that all adults use everyday, whether they realize it or not.   
 
Are you a math instructor or tutor? Try teaching math in ways that do not feel like "math class."  Many adult learners have bad experiences of being asked to memorize rote facts and solve decontextualized problems. Intead, instructors can focus on math as a tool for communicating ideas and for solving real-life problems involving bills, taxes, measurements, interest rates, etc.  A math instructor who can help learners identify where they are already using math successfully moves students toward their math goals. 

Key Reading for Math Instructors

Changing the Way We Teach Math - This is a fantastic handbook that guides teachers to rethink and restructure math instruction. A seasoned math instructor, Kate Nonesuch, describes the way her approach to teaching math has shifted in an easy-to-read and very applicable format.  The handbook does not need to be read from beginning to end, but if you start reading at the beginning, you may well find yourself halfway through before you put it down!
 
Focus on Basics: Numeracy - The National Center for the Study of Adult Literacy and Learning (NCSALL) has archived copies of their newsletter Focus on Basics available on their website (under "Publications").  The Numeracy Edition includes many helpful articles (including a summary of the Kate Nonesuch handbook mentioned above). Check out the article "Using Part-Whole Thinking in Math," which starts on page one of the newsletter.  In it, Dorothea Steinke explores the gap that many adult learners studying math share -- the understanding that numbers and their parts (for example, 8 and it's parts 5 and 3) all exist at the same time, and that the parts of a whole never change.  Sound confusing?  Don't worry. Steinke explains it beautifully. Read it!
 
NCSALL: Math - Here you will find other archived articles relating to math instruction that have been published by NCSALL. The good reading goes on and on!
 
Washington State Learning Standards - In order to reach your students' skill goals, you must know where you're trying to go. This site gives exit performance indicators for each of the 6 levels of ABE math.  See the table of contents to find each level within the document.
 

Getting Started with Math Instruction

Before you begin teaching or tutoring, one of our staff members will meet with you to discuss the student(s) that you'll be working with -- their skills, needs, and goals. If you are tutoring, your student’s advisor will share his/her CASAS Math test results with both you and the student. The CASAS test is the standardized tests that students must take to study at Literacy Source. The results help us recognize in which areas students needs to build their skills.
 
Whether you are teaching or tutoring, you will also receive a skill checklist for your student's level. These lists state each finite skill that a student needs in order to move into the next level of study. The checklists are attached below and correspond to your student's ABE math level (as indicated by his/her advisor). We recommend that you work through these checklists, making sure students are proficient in the skills listed. 
 
As with all adult learners, it is very important to used contextualized lessons that will engage students and apply to their everyday lives. For some, this may be as simple as reading a bus schedule or estimating what items they can buy with $5. For others, it may mean calculating interest rates or special discounts. For still others, it may mean learning how to graph equations in preparation for the GED, a very real goal for many students' everyday lives. If you are interested in knowing more about the GED math test, please go to our GED page.
 
Literacy Source offers both a GED Training and a Math Training to all interested volunteers. Please ask a staff member if you are interested in signing up for either of these trainings. For more informtaion on these or other trainings, please visit the Volunteer Orientation and Trainings page on our website.

Resources for Math Instructors

On-site resources - Literacy Source has many helpful resources available for teachers/tutors and students.  You can check out one of these or many other titles in our library.
 
Online resources - There are countless websites that offer math tutorials, practice problems, and worksheet generators. Here are a few that we recommend.
 
Ċ
lindseyk@literacysource.org,
Mar 20, 2012, 4:44 PM
Ċ
lindseyk@literacysource.org,
Mar 20, 2012, 4:44 PM
Ċ
lindseyk@literacysource.org,
Mar 20, 2012, 4:44 PM
Ċ
lindseyk@literacysource.org,
Mar 20, 2012, 4:45 PM
Comments