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: July 2021

This year ALM 28 was a fully online conference in which we were able to bring together practitioners, researchers, policy influencers and other people who are working with adults in mathematics education. Participants attended from around the world including South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Spain, The Netherlands, Ireland, the UK, the US and Canada.

The conference gave us a chance to rethink and reflect on the role that developing numeracy skills and knowledge plays in many aspects of the lives of adults, including; health, finances, social justice, education and the demands of technology and climate change. You can read the impact of the conference on the participants below but we are indebted to our co-hosts at Hamburg University, especially Professor Anke Grotlüshen and Lisanne Heilman, and her team, for their excellent technical, intellectual and organisational support.

The ALM AGM took place during the conference. This resulted in some changes to the Trustees, with some long standing members retiring and being replaced by newer members. You can read more about changes to the Trustees and plans for the future on the ALM website over the coming months. In the mean time have a good summer/winter break wherever you are and enjoy this great read.

Beth Kelly
Chair of ALM trustees

ALM 28 Hamburg: Numeracy and Vulnerability

Our first online ALM conference proved to be a great success, thanks to the superb work done by Lisanne and her team at the University of Hamburg and the stimulating contributions of all our speakers. The comments below capture some of the highlights and reflections of those who attended from different parts of the globe.

“This well-organized online conference made it possible to gather a group of knowledgeable and like-minded people with different backgrounds and from all over the world. Discussing and learning about numeracy is especially important in times when there is great need not only to understand numbers and graphs, but also to think critically about figures and information.”

(Gregor Dutz, University of Hamburg, Germany)

“The ALM28 meeting was very informative, superbly organized, and had a good ambiance. The mix of keynote speakers and presenters covered a wide range of topics that illustrated the multifaceted nature of the field of adult numeracy. This year's theme, with a focus on numeracy and vulnerability, was particularly timely - I liked how a broader network of ideas was laid out both by speakers and some of the participants, regarding interdependencies between adult numeracy and, for example adult literacy, education for democracy, and the influence (and pressures) of fast-changing technologies.”

(Prof. Iddo Gal, Dept. of Human Services, University of Haifa, Israel)

“This was my 7th ALM conference and in terms of the professional input it did matched up well to the other ALMs I have attended. I enjoyed the keynotes, specially the first one ‘Vulnerability in Adult Life – and how it affects Numeracy’. This keynote brought up some of the discussions that has gone on since the PIAAC results were released, yet it looked at connections that I had previously not heard about. Another highlight for me personally was the workshop on “Money Matters” as that was linked very closely to the focus of my job at the Norwegian Directorate for Higher Education and Skills.”

(Tanja Aas, Directorate for Higher Education and Skills, Norway)

“This year the ALM conference faced the challenge of being presented in an online format, and I think that it was a totally successful and enjoyable conference. I liked so much the keynotes, very inspiring and appropriate in a moment like this, when vulnerability is a real matter for many people struggling with technologies whilst facing the challenges of Covid-19. Financial literacy and climate change are also urgent matters for adults in our current World. The parallel sessions were also great, and it was very interesting discussing the adult numeracy framework with colleagues, learning from other approaches and previous work. Thank you for all the insights from the speakers and the discussions at the conference, and congratulations for a great job to our colleagues from Hamburg and the others involved in the organisation!”

(Javier Diez-Palomar, University of Barcelona, Spain)

“As a first time participant at an ALM conference, I was impressed with the openness to share and critical engage with different ideas. The presentations I attended prompted many thoughts and surfaced tensions that a numeracy educator/researcher needs to hold together. I felt like my thoughts were captured by a comment in the chat at one of the presentations, ‘It’s never easy’.

The presentations sparked new ideas that could be included within the development of numeracy in formal programmes around, for example, ethical spending and environmental sustainability. It also raised the importance of the context of conceptualisation and implementation of numeracy development initiatives. I would like to maybe engage further on the conceptions of numeracy in theory and its integration within formal programmes in practice.

I found it interesting also that I may have been one of very few from the South, or developing countries and wonder how a community of practice could be promoted within these contexts. I look forward to participating in future ALM conferences and being part of a community that is engaging in this very important area of development.”

(Shoba Rathilal, Durban, South Africa)

“After almost two years of Covid-19 we're getting used to the Zoom-meetings but this was actually the first time ALM was a fully online conference. For me sadly this meant no traveling, no live singing at the conference dinner and no geocaching in another country. I loved to see and meet all those beautiful people from all over the globe and noticed that we all stay strong in this situation, although we know that there are a lot of vulnerable people in different situations.

As Professor Chris Budd pointed out, not only is Covid-19 threatening our world but climate changes are also influential. We can use maths and numeracy lessons to help the younger generation deal with the effects of climate changes. In fact, it's our duty to prepare them to deal with the vulnerabilities in a changing world. When I listened to Norman Maphosa in his parallel session "what am I doing here" - Perceptions of Zimbabwean Adult numeracy learners in England - I noticed that it is so important that we all speak the same numerical language. Only in that way can we understand each other, comparing various educational programs and diplomas from all over the world. I hope to see you all next year in good health. Just as Vera Lynn said: We'll meet again...”

(Franc Lafeber, Vocational College for the Creative Arts, Netherlands)

“We have always thought of numbers or numeracy to be like that quiet neighbour that doesn't rock the boat but when you combine vulnerability with numeracy, that's when you open a can of worms. We heard and shared so many important issues around this conference theme. I was particularly interested in digital learning, automation, online issues and financial topics. There was so much food for thought (although careful about food miles), and unexpected information from both international presenters and an international audience. This has made me confident that numeracy is here to stay in a new and improved version for the future.

In the era of COVID and lockdowns, this event sits at the top of my favourites, alongside working from home as an online teacher, gardening, my online book club and long walks at the beach. Thank you so much for a wonderful, thought-provoking event.”

(Helenka Jiricek, Adelaide, South Australia)

With heart and mind - Discussing in a cordial atmosphere with mind: this is how I would like to summarize ALM28 "Numeracy and Vulnerability". My personal highlight ("with heart") remains the Conference Party: open, warm, full of empathy and benevolent (in reciting, singing and sharing). Based on this, the joint reflection and consideration ("with mind") of potentially vulnerable people with a view to numeracy could do, was also constructive, productive and fruitful.

For me, two content-related points remain important: first, both numeracy and vulnerability are always about the social embedding of the subject. Second, the question of the facets of numeracy or the concrete contents remains to be discussed. The question of the goal of acquiring and applying numeracy as a contribution to a more successful everyday life and improved participation does not.”

(Wiebke Curdt, University of Hamburg, Germany)

CERME 12 conference

The 12th Congress of the European Society for Research in Mathematics Education (CERME) has been planned as a live event for 2nd - 6th February 2022, hosted by the Free University of Bozen-Bolzano, Italy. This will be a great opportunity to meet with researchers from all over the world.

The Thematic Working Group (TWG07) on Adult Mathematics Education at this conference will be of particular interest to ALM members. The group will provide a forum for those working in the field of adults learning mathematics to share ideas and experiences. Papers and posters on a wide range of topics related to adult mathematics education are invited (e.g. maths for work, PIAAC, maths in society). The deadline for submissions is September 15th 2021. Further details can be found at

New documentary

A new (15min) mini-documentary has just been released entitled “Mathematisation of society" (with English subtitles) as part of the inaugural lecture of Kees Hoogland on June 2nd. This also features Dave Tout, Conrad Wolfram and Anthony Scriffignano (data scientist).

The documentary can be found at Please feel free to share this link. Comments are welcome and more information can be obtained from

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 September 1st 2021.

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