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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.

ALM bulletin: May 2020

Welcome to the May ALM Bulletin, a useful way to keep in touch as we continue to keep our social distance from family, friends and colleagues. This bulletin includes information on our planned virtual AGM and other ALM news, including some new resources available to support teaching maths by Kathy Safford-Ramus and some reflections on the role of numbers during the COVID-19 virus outbreak. If you are not already a member please read John Keogh’s article about the benefits and importance of ALM membership and if you are a practitioner take a look at Lynda Ginsburg’s news about the new section in the ALM Journal. Jeff Evans has also written a very useful article signposting some interesting websites that discuss the use of statistics during the virus lockdown. We would welcome any further contributions members might like to make towards sharing the influence of numbers on our current experiences. If you would like to write a short piece please put it on the ALM Facebook at ALM-Adults-Learning-Mathematics.

In the section below, there is important information about how we plan to hold a virtual Annual General Meeting. All ALM members are welcome to attend. Further information will be circulated nearer to the date.

Dr. Beth Kelly
Chair of ALM

ALM Annual General Meeting

The ALM trustees were very disappointed to have to announce that ALM27 will NOT be occurring in Vancouver in July 2020, due to the current restrictions introduced to counter the COVID-19 virus. However, the trustees are now considering alternative ways of keeping us all in touch, exploring using webinars or virtual discussions. There will be more news about this in the coming weeks and months.

One essential event at every conference is the Annual General Meeting (AGM) of ALM where we elect, or re-elect, trustees and officers to take the work of the organisation forward for the next year. In the interests of maintaining ALM’s open and democratic organisational procedures, and to ensure we keep in touch, we are planning to hold a virtual AGM on July 7th 2020. The time is yet to be confirmed. We hope that holding a virtual meeting will allow as many ALM members to attend as possible, if they wish to do so.

All members will be invited to attend the meeting via a web- link. At the meeting members are entitled to raise concerns, make suggestions and be nominated for positions. However given that the AGM will be a virtual meeting it would be really helpful if members could send their questions in advance. We would also welcome new trustees and if you are interested please contact Marc Jorgenson at secretary @alm-online.net to discuss the idea.

The papers for the AGM will soon be available on the ALM-website http://alm-online.net/about/agm-documents/
If you are not currently a member but would be interested in joining this meeting please consider joining ALM at http://alm-online.net/become-a-member/ and find out more about the work of this worldwide research and teaching forum.

Membership

Like many organisations and activities in the World today, ALM is facing its challenges and making the best use of available technology but much also relies on the goodwill, energy and common sense of our members and well-wishers. Many of you may have used the annual conference as a reminder to renew your membership. In the absence of the conference this year, we would like to take this opportunity to encourage you to renew your membership in support of the aims and objectives of ALM.

This year, we are making a special drive for former ALM members to renew their membership via the ALM website http://alm-online.net/become-a-member/. It is our intention to swell the ranks of ALM and to create a panel of Trustees upon whom to build our succession plan. As Beth has explained above, the AGM will take place in a virtual environment and details will be circulated to members once finalised.

Food for thought: Coronavirus (Covid-19) statistics

Readers may be asking questions about the course of the pandemic in their own countries or localities; for example, “At what stage is the pandemic currently?” and “How do we compare with other countries in our region or worldwide?” They may be aware of well-regarded websites like worldometers.info/coronavirus/ (or https://ourworldindata.org/coronavirus). But, when scrolling down to comparative tables for countries, finding and interpreting the relevant data is not straight forward. Each country will have information resources in the public domain, but each number requires care to “read” it. I will illustrate with the situation in the UK.

Should one focus on new cases daily, new deaths daily, or total deaths? And how can you compare your country with others? An excellent piece was published in the Observer (London) on 12 April by Sylvia Richardson and David Spiegelhalter: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/apr/12/coronavirus-statistics-what-can-we-trust-and-what-should-we-ignore.

Spiegelhalter, a popular commentator on statistics in the media and in print, followed up on 30 April, focussing on international comparisons - and the surprising ambiguities in death statistics. (In the UK, deaths in care homes and “in the community” have only recently been included): https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/apr/30/coronavirus-deaths-how-does-britain-compare-with-other-countries .

For those wanting more information, this Royal Statistical Society (UK) post is a helpful adjunct to the Observer pieces:

https://www.statslife.org.uk/features/4474-a-statistician-s-guide-to-coronavirus-numbers. For those interested in modelling, this, from Nat Silver’s (The Signal and the Noise) 538 site in USA focuses on Modelling especially:

https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/why-its-so-freaking-hard-to-make-a-good-covid-19-model/. And here are more resources from the publisher SAGE:
https://ocean.sagepub.com/coronavirus

The main message is to keep thinking critically when confronting these tables. Remember that statistics, like most numbers, are not chiselled out of stone – but are constructed by people, which means they are “social products”.

Jeff Evans

This week in numbers – BUT DON’T READ IF YOU DON’T WANT TO THINK ABOUT CORONAVIRUS!

Numbers can be helpful, factual and concrete
They help us to feel steady, keep the ground under our feet.

But so many numbers abounding, part of our ‘normal’ day
Helping us, confusing us, telling what the experts say.

20 seconds for washing, and Covid – it’s ‘19’
These very specific numbers forming part of our routine

Keeping apart from others, 2 metres the optimum space
This to prevent the so-called ‘droplets’ landing on our face.

In case of contact with this virus, stay in for 7 or 14
Our new language and terminology is in terms of quarantine

Rationing has come about - 2 items only in our shopping
Limits of loo rolls and pasta too, to stop us over-stocking

There’s an hour for our exercise, we know our temperatures daily
Days weeks or months to stay inside….definitely or maybe……

The figures rising steeply, countries are compared
How’s the UK doing….and are we yet prepared?

Reality’s in these numbers- the dying and infected
Lack of sufficient protective masks, the numbers of who’ve been tested.

Police have their 4 ‘E’s:
Engage explain encourage and enforce
Measures of government put in place:
Stop things getting any worse.

Numbers of businesses close, and thousands of jobs are lost
Mental health, domestic abuse: enormous human cost

8 O’clock on Thursdays, to applaud the NHS
The workers’ generosity: kindness under harsh duress

Perhaps it’s the numbers we don’t know that scare us
But let’s not dwell on that
Continue with the online calls and jokes:
Zoom, Facetime and What’sApp.

To counteract these harsh and bitter thoughts, and these ghastly high amounts
Instead let’s score our blessings,
Reaching out and helping others, making every moment count.

Written by Nikki Lye (submitted by David Kaye)



Further Food for Thought: Power in Numbers

At ALM-22 in Bern I presented a paper about self-efficacy that included information about the concept of mindset being promulgated by Carol Dweck. At ALM-24, ALM-25, and ALM-26 I shared the products being generated by a United States Department of Education project, Power in Numbers, that promoted the use of open educational resources when teaching mathematics to adults. A fellow subject expert of that project was Dr. Jo Boaler, a mathematics educator from Stanford University who created and moderates the online resource youcubed. Youcubed is one of the resources advocated by the USED project and, according to the youcubed website, is “Our main goal is to inspire, educate, and empower teachers of mathematics, transforming the latest research on math into accessible and practical forms.” (https://www.youcubed.org/#, accessed 03/28/2020)

Jo Boaler is a colleague of Carol Dweck and has recently written a book about Boaler’s work in the area of mindset, particularly its application to the teaching of mathematics. Her youcubed material is woven into the fabric of the volume and relates to work referenced in my opening sentences. In the book she offers six “keys” to helping mathematics students learn the subject by moving them from a fixed to a growth mindset. It is not an academic publication and is accessibly written for the general public. I recommend the book to ALM members whose appetite for “mindset” research may have been whetted by my presentation in Bern.

I would be remiss if I did not share the final product of the Power in Numbers project, a set of three videos telling adult learner stories. “The series serves to promote the importance and relevance of advanced math skills to inspire adult learners.” (https://lincs.ed.gov/state-resources/federal-initiatives/power-in-numbers/videos) These and the four reports generated over the course of the project can be found at https://lincs.ed.gov/state-resources/federal-initiatives/power-in-numbers. The information about Open Educational Resources (OER) has become extremely pertinent in the past three months as many adult educators have been obliged to move to distance learning because of the global pandemic. What may have seemed a potential instructional alternative is now a necessity.

References

Boaler, J. (2019). Limitless Mind: Learn, Lead, and Live Without Barriers. New York: HarperCollins Publishers.
Luminary Labs. (2017). The Math Gap: Implications for Investing in America’s Workforce. https://lincs.ed.gov/publications/pdf/Advancing_Math_Market_Scan_1.pdf
Luminary Labs. (2018a). Multiplying Impact: Five Frameworks for Investment in EdTech for Adult Learners. https://lincs.ed.gov/publications/pdf/advancing_math_market_scan_2_4-13-2018.pdf
Luminary Labs. (2018b). From Creation to Adoption: How to Develop and Deploy Successful EdTech. https://lincs.ed.gov/publications/pdf/power-in-numbers-market-scan-3.pdf

Kathy Safford-Ramus

ALM Journal adds new section of Practitioner Articles

Since 2005, Adults Learning Mathematics – An International Journal has been publishing peer-reviewed articles on research and theoretical perspectives related to teaching and learning mathematics and numeracy to adults at all levels in a variety of settings. The articles inform researchers, practitioners, teacher educators and policy makers.

The Editorial Team of the Journal, with the agreement of the ALM Trustees, has recognized that adult education practitioners, as classroom teachers and professional developers, bring valuable and insightful perspectives that can also inform our international audience of researchers, practitioners and policy makers. Thus, we are now inviting the submission of articles from practitioners informing the larger community about the practice of teaching adults mathematics.

A “Practitioner Article” might focus on (but is not limited to):
  • descriptions and reflections on classroom experiences;
  • particular mathematical content, instructional strategies and/or materials;
  • a professional development experience and its impact on classroom instruction,
  • adult learner assessment issues;
  • other relevant issues of practice.
A fuller description of the expected format of a Practitioner Article will soon be posted on the ALM-IJ website. Practitioner articles will be subject to peer review, as are all articles in the Journal.

Please consider submitting an article to this new section of the Journal, or encouraging a practitioner colleague to submit.

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 diane.dalby@nottingham.ac.uk or send her a short draft item for the next bulletin by July 1st.

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