ALM28 Conference: Numeracy and Vulnerability


ALM28 Proceedings

This year we were welcomed to the 28th Adults Learning Mathematics conference which was virtual and hosted by colleagues at the University of Hamburg.

The conference was held from 5th – 7th July 2021 with the title of Numeracy and Vulnerability.
See:  ALM28_programme_public

The keynotes addressed a broad spectrum of themes related to the theme of the conference. We managed to confirm a series of excellent speakers.
See overview of key note speakers: Leaflet ALM28 Keynotes

The keynote lectures can be watched at our YouTube Channel

Next to the key notes, there were be a selected number of presentations and workshops in parallel sessions.
See overview of the abstracts: ALM28_long_abstracts

The following presenters made their presentations available at this website.


Click on the items below for background information on this conference:
Conference theme

Numeracy and Vulnerability

Research on numeracy often takes the form of large-scale quantitative studies, a prominent example being the PIAAC study (OECD, 2019). Numeracy is understood here as a measurable construct, and numerical competence can be related to various socio-demographic and socio-economic factors. Numeracy as a social practice, on the other hand (Yasukawa et al., 2018) is more the subject of smaller qualitative studies. Regardless of the approach taken, numeracy can be related to exclusion from participation. Low numerical skills and the infrequent practice of numerical practices can, it is assumed, lead to increased vulnerability (Gal et al. 2020) to social disadvantage or exclusion among individuals and social groups.

The ALM Conference in Hamburg in 2021 will focus on this connection between numeracy and vulnerability. We are looking forward to contributions that address this issue, for example by exploring the links between numerical competences and practices on the one hand and possible disadvantages in the context of finance and consumption, work and family, health (e.g. context Covid 19) or digitisation on the other. Also of interest are contributions on educational needs and educational policy frameworks that become visible in the context of numeracy and vulnerability.

Gal, Iddo; Grotlüschen, Anke; Tout, Dave; Kaiser, Gabriele (2020): Numeracy, adult education, and vulnerable adults: a critical view of a neglected field. In: ZDM Mathematics Education, 1–18. DOI: 10.1007/s11858-020-01155-9.

OECD (2019): Skills Matter. Additional Results from the Survey of Adult Skills. Paris: OECD Publishing (OECD skills studies).

Yasukawa, Keiko; Rogers, Alan; Jackson, Kara; Street, Brian (Hg.) (2018): Numeracy as Social Practice. Global and Local Perspectives. New York.

Keynote Themes
The main theme of the conference will be the link between adult’s numeracy and their individual and/or societal vulnerability. Specific topics of the conference will be:

Keynote 1 (90 Min): Vulnerability in Adult Life – and how it affects Numeracy Practices by Prof. Dr. Anke Grotlüschen (University of Hamburg)

Monday, July 5th 2021

Anke Grotlüschen is Professor of Lifelong Learning at the Faculty of Education at the University of Hamburg. Her work focuses on digital media and learning theory, adult education target group and interest research, literacy and basic education research, citizenship and cultural adult education. Anke is responsible for the German National Level One Survey (LEO) and is the speaker of the co-operative research project on Adult Numeracy (Hamburg Numeracy Project) with the UNESCO Institute for Livelong Learning, the University of the Armed Forces and the University of Applied Sciences.

In this keynote, Anke Grotlüschen introduces the concepts and the relation of vulnerability and numeracy practices: We understand humans in societies as mutually dependent and therefore as vulnerable, and we see vulnerability as a genuine aspect of life. Vulnerability is necessary to open up for deep interpersonal relations, for being involved or moved and it is definitely a prerequisite for falling in love. Vulnerability means, we care – maybe for our loved ones, maybe about our jobs. Others can hurt us, but we trust them that they won’t actually do it. This is how many wealthy and/or privileged adults in industrialized societies live. But some parts of our societies are not only vulnerable (i.e. in risk of) but they actually do get hurt by other individuals, their societies structures or institutions. They get inadequately paid or exploiting work contracts. We use the term vulnerability to specifically look into the various risks of being hurt, marginalized or excluded for different groups. We match research on numeracy skills and numeracy practices with this notion of vulnerability. Numeracy skills and practices decline over time and in higher age, they are socially gendered in their nature and distribution and cannot be discussed without reproduces stereotypes. Training does not necessarily address the most needy, and numeracy training needs to be understood much broader and more critical than as mere basic calculation.

Keynote 2 (90 Min):
The international reproduction of vulnerability in numeracy assessments by Gelsa Knijnik (Universidade do Vale do Rio dos Sinos)

Monday, July 5th 2021

Gelsa Knijnik is a retired professor of the Graduate Programme on Education at the Universidade do Vale do Rio dos Sinos, Brazil. She conducts research in the field of Mathematics Education from a socio-cultural perspective. Her academic trajectory is linked to ethnomathematical studies. She is the Chair of TSG # 52 Ethnomathematics at ICME-14, which will take place in Shanghai, this July.

Based on my work with the Brazilian Landless Movement, in my talk I will highlight the role numeracy can take in vulnerable social groups to contribute to overcome their precarious living situation. In this perspective, we can consider numeracy an (even if very small but still valuable) element of the complex processes to search for social justice. Nevertheless, to fulfil its role ethics must be central to our numeracy practices and studies. In a broader sense, in contemporaneity, more than ever, I would argue that ethics must be central to our everyday life if what is at stake is to have a more just and inclusive society.

Keynote 3 (90 Min):
The new literacies of automation: Justice in the digital era by Dr. Suzanne Smythe (Simon Frazer University, Burnaby, CAN)

Monday, July 5th 2021

Suzanne Smythe is Associate Professor of Adult Literacy and Adult Education in the Faculty of Education and Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, Canada. Her current research program is concerned with digital literacy pedagogies, digital justice, and equitable access to new technologies for youth and adults. Recent examples of this work can be found in the International Review of Education (2021) with Amea Wilbur and Emily Hunter, and in Studies in the Education of Adults (2020) with Klaus Buddeberg and Anke Grotlüschen. Dr. Smythe is the principal investigator of a new research grant awarded by the Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council that will explore with community organizations adults’ experiences of digital and algorithmic inequalities, and possibilities for more just digital worlds and literacies.

The presentation describes examples of encounters between people, technologies, and algorithms that are drawn from research in community-based settings in North America, with particular attention to the phenomena of online job applications and e-recruitment platforms. Nonhuman decision-making is increasingly common in North American job search and other services, and becoming so in other jurisdictions. This is raising important questions about the role of automation and algorithms in the production of precarious labour, and in the very meanings of literacy in a world that must contend with the pedagogies and politics of the nonhuman. What do these new literacies of automation mean for adult education research and practice, particularly in this pandemic moment? How might adult educators and researchers locate themselves within movements for literacy and justice in the digital era?

Keynote 4 (90 Min):
Financial numeracy and vulnerability José Julián Coa-Alvira (UNIVERSITY, New York, USA)

Tuesday, July 6th 2021

José Julián Cao-Alvira is Professor of Finance and Economics for Lehman College of The City University of New York. He obtained a Ph.D. in Economics from Cornell University, and holds professional designations as a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) and Financial Risk Manager (FRM). His fields of research include microcredit banking, financial literacy, investment analysis, international trade and competitiveness. José Julián chairs the Research Division at PRIME Business School of the Universidad Sergio Arboleda in Bogotá, Colombia and actively serves as a Visiting Researcher at international academic institutions, being the Center for North and South Economic Research of the University of Sassari in Sardinia, Italy the most recent of these. José Julián’s most recent work, published in the Review of Development Economics, attempts to find the linkages that exist between financial numeracy and the indebtedness and wealth of households in Bogotá, the capital of Colombia.

In this keynote José Julián Cao-Alvira will speak about these linkages of financial literacy with indebtedness and wealth accumulation of households in Bogotá. The main question is about the relationship between the financial literacy and money management skills of the heads of households with the way households use and manage debt, the cost of debt servicing and several wealth indicators. Numeracy skills are found to have a positive correlation with the decision to use debt and have a mortgage and with the total number of lending sources, debt-to-income, and net worth. The speech uncovers important debt and wealth accumulation conducts closely tied to the city’s economic stratification and the gender of the head of household, thus discussing questions of unequal degrees of vulnerability. A number of public policy implications are derived from the results of the analysis.

Keynote 5 (90 Min):
Climate change in the mathematics and numeracy classroom- Discussion with Prof. Dr. Chris Budd and a workshop chaired by Dr. Beth Kelly (AML chairperson, University College Institute of Education)

Wednesday, July 7th 2021

Chris Budd OBE, is Professor of Applied Mathematics and Director of the Centre of Nonlinear Mechanics at the University of Bath, UK. He has a long history of engagement in the public understanding of science and mathematics through institutions such as the UK Royal Institution and the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications.

A graduate of Oxford and Cambridge, Professor Budd has held the position of Professor of Applied Mathematics at the University of Bath for over twenty years. His other current positions include Chair of Mathematics at the Royal Institution at Great Britain since 2000, and Professor of the Public Understanding of Mathematics at the ICMS, Edinburgh, since 2015.

Professor Budd’s broad research interests involve interdisciplinary industrial and applied mathematics. He has worked with the UK Met Office for over ten years and his algorithms are now incorporated into national operational weather forecasting. He is currently carrying out research on climate modelling using modern mathematical and computational methods and is actively involved in a number of international climate modelling networks, including CliMathNet which he co-directs and the Mathematics of Planet Earth programme. He also collaborates with the energy industry, the aerospace industry, the telecommunications industry and the food industry.

Discussion Title: Climate change in the mathematics and numeracy classroom

In a well-received webinar Professor Chris Budd describes how complex climate models work and the assumptions that go into them. He discusses the reliability of predictions of climate change, and shows how mathematics can give us insights into both past and future.

We are delighted that Professor Budd has agreed to join us for this discussion group and we will take his webinar available at as a starting point for our discussion. When we can consider:

How mathematics lessons can be used to contribute to better understanding of the models involved in climate change?

How numeracy lessons can be use to critically look at media coverage of climate change?

We will then use the discussion group to explore further three aspects of the relationship between mathematics and climate change:

  • exploring ideas highlighted in Professor Budd’s seminar
  • sharing resource ideas and approaches to teaching climate change through mathematics and numeracy
  • possible ways that participants could develop resources or projects to support the better understanding of climate change through mathematics.

We look forward to an interesting debate and hope that participants can bring contributions and insights of their own to the discussion.

Keynote 6 (90 Min):

Covid-19 and numeracy challenges by Kevin McConway (Open University, UK)

Wednesday, July 7th 2021

Kevin McConway is Emeritus Professor of Applied Statistics at the Open University in the UK, where he taught statistics to adult students in a wide range of disciplines. He has researched collaboratively across natural and social science. Kevin has developed a strong interest and involvement in statistics in the media. In particular he was as adviser for eleven years and an occasional contributor to the BBC radio programme More or Less, which aims to support the public understanding of data and research, and he has worked with and helped train journalists in understanding and communicating statistics, often through the UK’s Science Media Centre where he is a member of the advisory committee.

Kevin will be discussing numeracy concerns that have come to the fore as a result of the pandemic. Some of the concerns, for example on understanding of risk, on dealing with numerical uncertainty, and on exponential growth have always been around, but have increased in salience and importance. Others, for example on the role of mathematical models in epidemiology, and on error types and rates in diagnostic tests, have become matters of public importance. Though mathematicians, statisticians, epidemiologists and educators have played a role in addressing these concerns, most of the work during this fast-moving crisis has been mediated through traditional media channels and social media. Those of us working on developing public understanding of statistics and mathematics therefore need to develop effective ways of engaging with these media. That’s not a simple matter, given the multiple competing interests and the vast number of actors involved. Kevin will argue that there have been some successes, some failures, and perhaps some pointers towards being more effective in the future.

Session Proposals

Call for Session Proposals

This call is closed!

Abstracts for the following forms of presentation will be welcomed:
– Long presentation (45 Min)
– Short presentation (20-30 Min)
– Workshop (90 Min)
– Poster presentation

Your abstract should be between 150 and 250 words. When your abstract has been accepted for the conference, you will be asked to provide a longer abstract of up to 1000 words.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact
To be scheduled as presenter after acceptance of your submission, you have to register as conference participant. Registration for the conference will start in mid January 2021.

To be scheduled as presenter after acceptance of your submission, you have to register as conference participant.

Programme Committee and Organizing Committee

Programme Committee

  • Jeff Evans
  • Lisanne Heilmann
  • Kees Hoogland
  • Beth Kelly
  • Jenny Stacey

Local Organising Committee (Hamburg)

Social program


Registration and payment module

How can I participate?

1.      Register here to participate at the conference:

Registration will be open until June 22nd 2021. The conference fee will be EUR 30.

For those having difficulty participating at the conference, particularly from countries that typically have low representation at the conference, and those with little to no funding to attend such a conference, there are free tickets available. Please see the next tab for details on financial support options and how to apply.


2.      Do you want to offer a discussion group or social event? If you want to host an open space, if you would like to meet, talk to, discuss experiences with others on a specific field/question? Or do you have a hobby or skill you’d like to share (e.g. a yoga class, virtual joint cooking, virtually meet people for a (lunch break) walk?

Let us know what you’d like to offer and send us an email to with your name, the theme, and preferred time slots.

3.       If you’ve been to an ALM conference, you might value the conference dinner as an integral part of the ALM community. You (and your loved ones) are welcome to join us at this year’s conference party (dinner for some, breakfast for others) on Tuesday, July 5th, 9 pm (in Germany, MESZ).

As part of this year’s conference party, you are invited to read poems of hope in your native language.

In addition, we invite you to send us a short video of yourself dancing the Jerusalema dance. (You can also include others in the dance for moral support.) Please send the video to the ALM secretary ( by the 21st June 2021 (Midsummer Day). It should be no longer than 4 Minutes. We will edit the videos together and show them at the party.

Examples of the dance as well as instructional videos can be found here:


Financial support to attend conference

ALM provides financial support to practitioners and researchers from institutions involved in Adults Learning Mathematics with limited resources to visit international conferences such as ALM28. To apply for financial support, please complete the bursary form attached here: ALM_bursaryform_2021, and email it to Support is given on a first-come-first-served basis. For additional questions, please contact the ALM treasurer directly by e-mailing

Photo: Jeff Evans, ALM. To the left: Hamburg Opera house. In the middle: Hamburg by night. To the right: The canals of Hamburg. 

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