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 January 2020

Happy New Year to all our ALM trustees, members, supporters and friends!

During this coming year we are looking forward to continuing to build ALM’s membership and influence in the world of adults learning mathematics. One of ALM’s great challenges - but also its greatest strength - is the extent of its ‘reach’ in the international community, with involvement from across the globe. ALM has built its reputation on informed expertise in both research and practice from different educational opportunities offered to adults in Numeracy and mathematics. This gives the ALM community access to a wealth of research and experience, which continues to influence educationalist thinking in both traditional and non-traditional settings.

Our next conference in Canada offers us an opportunity to meet new potential colleagues and friends, enabling us to grow our membership in a country we have not visited before. However, for those who cannot attend conferences, we are planning to continue developing our communication through the bulletin and the Journal, as well as using technology. This communication is vital when we consider the challenges and opportunities of keeping an international organisation running.

ALM was established in the UK twenty-six years ago but, with the likelihood of ‘Brexit' from Europe this year, it is more important than ever for us to think about ALM’s world relationships. With this in mind I am pleased to say the Trustees have representation from Ireland, Sweden, the USA, Canada and the Netherlands and our international journal committee extends our reach further to include representatives from Australia, Africa and South America. I look forward to more people joining ALM to help us extend our membership into new places this coming year.

Dr. Beth Kelly
Chair of ALM

ALM27 - Embracing Diversity and Inclusion: Adults learning mathematics in a changing world.

Vancouver Community College (VCC), along with various sponsoring partners such as BCCampus, Adult Basic Education Association of British Colombia (ABE), and the Pacific Institute for the Mathematical Sciences (PIMS) are looking forward to welcoming you to the 27th International Adults Learning Mathematics Conference, which will take place from July 6th to 9th, 2020 in Vancouver.

ALM invites those involved in adult mathematics education research, policy and practice, numeracy practitioners and postgraduate researchers to consider attending and/or submitting proposals for a presentation (research report or experience report), workshop, or poster at the conference. Titles, brief descriptions, and short abstracts will need to be submitted by 12pm GMT on Friday, March 20th, 2020.

Arrangements for the conference are moving fast, so please visit the ALM website to view further details including the guidelines for submission, the conference theme and important dates. Visit to find out more!

ALM International Journal

Javier Díez-Palomar took on the responsibility of Editor-in-Chief of the Journal beginning with volume 6(1) in February 2011. Under his leadership the Journal has developed and thrived: we have moved to a normal production of two issues a year and have reviewed our editorial procedures to ensure that the standard of articles will continue to improve. From 2017, changes have been made to the Editorial Team and the Editorial Board membership. These changes are ongoing. From the next issue, volume 14 (2), the Editor-in-Chief’s duties will be shared among Linda Galligan, Lynda Ginsburg, and Jeff Evans.

We hope you will find the articles in the current issue interesting and thought-provoking, and we encourage you to give feedback on your impressions. Please also consider contributing your articles to the Journal, and look for an announcement of a new ‘Practitioners’ Section’ in 2020.

ALM Treasurer's report

The finances of ALM remain healthy. At the beginning of 2019, ALM had assets of £16,667.37. This year we had an increase of £3,844.20. At the end of 2019 we had assets of £20,511.57. We are continuing to improve systems for updating membership and costing conferences. We are now better able to support new and existing members to attend conferences through a bursary system and have reserve funds for emergency issues.

The previous treasurer, Beth Kelly, stepped down in autumn 2019 when she became chair of ALM. Jurriaan Steen from the Netherlands has taken on the role of treasurer.

Mathematics in prison

Catherine Byrne, ALM member and trustee gives us a glimpse of her work in Ireland.

Mathematics is offered in Irish prison education centres as part of a wide curriculum, including academic subjects, creative arts and health and fitness. Prison education in Ireland is delivered as a partnership between the Irish Prison Service (IPS) and the local Education Training Boards (ETBs).

The service aims to help prisoners cope with their imprisonment, to achieve personal development, to prepare for life after release and to develop an appetite and capacity for lifelong learning (Irish Prison Service 2019). Special attention is given to basic educational needs, including literacy and numeracy. Prisoners often have gaps in their basic skills in reading, writing and mathematics (Morgan & Kett 2003) but are motivated to study mathematics for many reasons, both intrinsic and extrinsic.

Many prisoners have had problematic mathematical learning histories but have invisible mathematics skills that they have learned through real life activities (Coben 2000; Keogh, Maguire & O’Donoghue 2018). This means that the gap between how they see their ability in mathematics and their actual skills can be wide. As a result, many have low mathematical self-efficacy. In mathematics classes in prison, we appear to teach little mathematics in the beginning but spend a lot of time encouraging students to give mathematics a try and then drawing out their experiences of mathematics in everyday life. So, we often hear “but that’s not mathematics, that just common sense!”

In each class, people progress at their own pace and according to their own interests. Students can study a range of nationally certified modules at different levels, covering topics such as shape and space, problem solving, puzzles, patterns and quantity, data and number. “Time flies in mathematics class” we hear all the time. Students also gain a bit of status amongst their peers when walking with a mathematics book under their arm.

Mathematics can be a gateway to further education or a gatekeeper to further study but we hope that through learning mathematics in prison, the gate to lifelong learning becomes a little more open. Prison can be a difficult environment and many people there are facing serious challenges. Education, including mathematics, can help them cope by offering meaningful activities to fill time, to improve self-esteem and develop new interests.


Coben, D. (2000). Mathematics or common sense? Researching ‘invisible’ mathematics through adults’ mathematics life histories. In Perspectives on adults learning mathematics (pp. 53-66). Springer, Dordrecht.

Irish Prison Service (2019). Joint IPS/ETBI Education Strategy 2019 – 2022. Irish Prison Service.

Keogh, J. J., Maguire, T. & O’Donoghue, J. (2018). Adults, Mathematics and Work: From Research into Practice. Brill Sense.

Morgan, M. & Kett, M. (2003). The prison adult literacy survey: Results and implications. Irish Prison Service.

Other conference opportunities

Nordic conference on adult mathematics learning April 20 - 21, 2020, Copenhagen, Denmark

Mathematical skills and competences is an essential prerequisite for the active participation of adults in a democratic social life but is also important for working life and to access educational opportunities. At this conference you can hear researchers and practitioners present different perspectives on adult mathematics learning and have space to discuss core issues in mathematics learning with other adult educators!

The conference addresses teachers, researchers and leaders in adult education, as well as decision makers and politicians with an interest in the field. In the lectures and workshops we use Nordic languages, with the opportunity to also ask questions in English. The conference is organized in collaboration between the Nordic Network for Adult Learning (NVL), the Danish Institute for Education (DPU), Adult Education in Cooperation (ViS), the Ministry of Children and Education, VIA University College and 3F. For information about the conference, please refer to NVL's website,, or or you can find more information atæring.pdf.

ICME 2020

The International Congress for Mathematics Education (ICME) takes place every four years, bringing together mathematics education researchers from across the world. In July 2020 (12-19th) the conference will be held in Shanghai. We are aware that at some ALM members have had abstracts accepted and will be presenting their work at the conference. If you are going to attend ICME then Diane would be interested in hearing from you, with a view to meeting up during the week-long conference (her email address is below).

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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