The ALM bulletin is a bimonthly newsletter from Adults Learning Mathematics (ALM).
ALM is an international research forum bringing together researchers and practitioners in adult mathematics/numeracy teaching and learning in order to promote the learning of mathematics by adults.

Some words from our Chair

Happy New Year to all ALM members!

I am pleased to welcome all our members and supporters to the first ALM Bulletin of 2019. This Bulletin contains some paper and book reviews that should give you an appetite for further reading, and also includes a reminder about paying your fees for the New Year. By making this payment you might be either renewing a long-standing membership or taking the opportunity to commit a little more directly to supporting ALM for the first (or second) time. Please don’t forget.

Our colleagues in Sweden are now very busy preparing for our 26th ALM conference in July. You can find information about the conference on our website but further details will be continue to be published so do keep watching for updates. If you are a member or supporter in Sweden or another Scandinavian country and would like to be more involved in ALM activities please contact the organising committee using the contact details on the website.

Meanwhile our colleagues in UK are equally busy preparing the Proceedings from the ALM 25 conference held in London in 2018. If you were a presenter at the ALM 25 conference you should shortly be hearing from the editors for the Proceedings about your contribution. Please do respond to these requests, as we would like the Proceedings to be as representative as possible of this very successful conference.

I noted that in our Bulletin of February 2018 an article included this summary of the activity and purpose of ALM:
  • To encourage learners to appreciate their numerate behaviour and their mathematics- saturated lives;
  • To support practitioners and lecturers in a wide variety of contexts where adults learn mathematics;
  • To shape policy for the benefit of society in multiple contexts.
ALM members continue to do this both in their own ALM activities, and in contributing to other regional, national and international conferences and publications. It is useful to note that such an occasion takes place in the Netherlands in a month’s time at the CERME conference. CERME 11 will include a Thematic Working Group about Adult Mathematic Education for the first time, created largely by contributions from ALM members. See details at

David Kaye

Chair of ALM Trustees


Preparations for the ALM 26 conference Math in a Digital Age are now well underway. The conference will be held in Lund, Sweden, July7th – 10th July 2019, hosted by ALM and National Centre of Mathematics Education (NCM) in Sweden. You can now register for the conference on the website and find information about accommodation options. See


The ALM trustees very much appreciate the support of ALM members from across the world. If you have been a member then you may well have already received a gentle reminder that your membership of ALM is due to be renewed this month, January 2019. Your membership fee is a tangible statement of your support for aims and objectives of ALM. The income from membership fees helps to maintain the work of the organisation in bringing together a community of teachers, educators and researchers for the ultimate benefit of adults learning mathematics. Although much is contributed voluntarily by ALM trustees and other members, it also allows us to offer a modest amount of financial support for new researchers to present their work at conferences. Please follow this link for full details about how you can renew your membership for 2019

Reviews of ALM journal papers

This month, two of our ALM members have each selected an article from the most recent ALM journal and offered comments that we hope will provide an interesting a taster of the journal content and encourage you to delve deeper into other articles.

Evans, J. (2018) Statistics in public policy debates: Present crises and adult mathematics education. Adults Learning Mathematics: An International Journal, 13(1), 38-45.

Marc Jorgenson writes:

In this article, Jeff Evans addresses one of the most important quantitative literacy issues of our day: the use/misuse and distrust of statistics in the public policy arena. If citizens in a democracy tend to only accept data that supports their own worldview while dismissing other data, this results in dire consequences such as what we are seeing already in the resultant political polarization, at least in the US and UK.

Jeff refers to both an overt crisis of statistics and a secondary, but related, covert crisis regarding data analytics. The article gives a succinct history and background of both the use of statistics in public policy as well as the data mining of Big Data. He points out a number of key issues which show just how complicated these crises are. With no easy solution, it begs the question of what can we do. He answers with a number of recommendations for citizens, teachers of adults’ mathematics/numeracy, and researchers. These recommendations are sound and cause the reader to reflect on additional actions they might take.

Stacey, J. (2016) Does adding mathematics to English Language learners’ timetables improve their acquisition of English? Adults Learning Mathematics: An International Journal, 11(2), 52-57.

Lynda Ginsburg writes:

Jenny Stacey’s article was particularly interesting to me because it reported on how studying math interacted with simultaneous English Language learning for adults, providing benefits for learners in both content areas. This dual-focus research approach contrasts with much of the existing ELL/math research that has primarily concentrated on ELL children’s maths performance, their language challenges, mathematics learning trajectories and socio-cultural issues or schoolteachers’ strategies to enhance students’ mathematics learning.
The richness of Stacey’s findings is due to her wise decision to employ both quantitative and qualitative methodologies to capture the impact of the program as well as provide insight into the processes involved. The knowledgeable observers were able to recognize that the learners were interacting and speaking about the math activities in ways that differed from how they interacted and spoke in narrow, language-focused classes, including with less hesitancy and self-consciousness. I was left wanting to know more about the ESOL Maths sessions -- What math content was addressed and how was that decided? Was the math content embedded in everyday contexts? How was the class organized? How were differences in prior math learning handled, or not?
The author notes the limitations of her study, particularly the small sample size and the learners’ self-selection to participate in the ESOL Maths class. As such, the study does not definitively settle a research issue but rather suggests many avenues for further research. Among these might be: How do different teachers design and facilitate ESOL Maths classes? What is the nature of ESOL learners’ math conversations using discourse analysis? Which ESOL learners choose to add ESOL Maths classes to their learning schedules? What happens if learners are randomly assigned to ESOL Maths classes? Do all learners benefit from integrating math into ESOL classes?
I’m intrigued by Stacey’s findings, even as I want to know more about the experiences of the teacher and learners in the ESOL Maths class.

Book review

Keogh, J., Maguire, T. and O’Donoghue, J. (2018). Adults, Mathematics and Work. From Research into Practice, Brill |Sense Publisher, Leiden, Bosten. ISBN: 978-90-04-38176-6.

Jürgen Maaß (Linz, Austria) writes:

Did you ever ask someone “Do you use mathematics doing your job?” Many people would answer strictly NO and many times their answer indicates their emotional distance from mathematics. One of the basic – and well proofed! - theses of this book is that very many people use mathematics in their workplace without knowing it. Their “mathematics knowledge skills and competence is surrounded and concealed by multiple layers” (p. 7). What might be the reason for the difference? If people think about mathematics they often have in mind the typical image of mathematics as a well-structured, very big (infinite) building with many parts (like geometry or algebra) and floors (like triangles or equations) and rooms (like “Pythagoras” or linear equations) and very many corners in these rooms filled with tasks and examples. If someone is doing his or her job (sorting, driving, building, selling, communicating etc.) there is nothing in this that is similar to doing mathematics in school.

If you want to know more about the mathematics used in work places you have to do more than ask working people. John Keogh’s dissertation was focussed on this type of research. In chapter 3 of this book (“Identifying and measuring mathematics invisibility in the workplace”) we find an outline of the methods and in chapter 5 (“Job shadowing”) a short but really interesting report about four case studies. There is a lot of mathematics in workplaces where you would not expect it!

Successful research is nice, but the authors aim to go some way “from research into practice” (p. 113.). Chapter 6 is devoted to “considering the impact of this research on practitioners including school teachers, work-based trainers workface/career developers, policy makers etc.” (p. 113).

So if you as member of ALM are looking for a challenging and useful area of work you should read this book. If you think while reading the book you need more details about methods for research and transfer into practice do not hesitate to contact the authors. Last but not least, you should have in mind that working in this direction “is important because it seeks to make the use of mathematics in work more visible in formal terms, and to enable a reviewed self-perception as being mathematics capable and all that that implies for long term employability and wellbeing.” (p. 2)

Future bulletins

We hope that you are enjoying the regular ALM Bulletin. If you have news from your part of the world that may be of interest to our international community then please do get in touch with Diane Dalby or send her a short draft item for the next bulletin by March 1st.

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