The Scope of Adults’ Mathematics Education, with a Focus on International Surveys of Adults’ Skills
Evans, Middlesex University
At first sight, the scope of Adults’ Mathematics Education (AME) seems restricted to ‘adults’ numeracy’, the teaching and learning of adults’ basic mathematical skills. However, further consideration shows that AME could (or should?) embrace several other areas:
- mathematics teaching and learning in higher education;
- mathematics teacher education;
- ‘mathematics in work’; and
- mathematics for citizenship.
It is important to discuss adults’ numeracy, in educational terms – by considering assessment in particular. There have been international studies of adults’ ‘quantitative literacy’ or numeracy, since 1994, but these have been relatively small-scale – until now. In October 2013, the first results will be released from PIAAC (Project for International Assessment of Adult Competencies), by its main sponsor, the OECD.
In the main part of my paper, I will describe PIAAC in more detail, in terms of its aims, its conception and measurement of ‘numeracy’, and the survey and testing methods used. I will also aim to locate PIAAC in terms of its likely future role in educational policy, and in terms of the development of a widespread turn to ‘governance by numbers’ (Grek et al., 2009).
Jeff Evans is Emeritus Reader in Adults’ Mathematical Learning in the School of Science & Technology, Middlesex University. His research interests include: adults’ numeracy; mathematical thinking and emotion; research methodologies in the social sciences and education; images of mathematics in popular culture. As a statistician, he is comfortable with quantitative methods, but he has also developed to an interest in approaches to fruitfully combining them with qualitative methods. Some of his critical methodological work has been done with colleagues in the Radical Statistics Group. During 2008-13, he has been a member of the Numeracy Expert Group for PIAAC. His most recent related publications include: Evans, Wedege & Yasukawa (2013), Critical Perspectives on Adults’ Mathematics Education, Ch. A7 in M. A. Clements et al. (eds.), Third International Handbook of Mathematics Education, Springer; and Tsatsaroni & Evans (2013), Adult Numeracy and the Totally Pedagogised Society: PIAAC and other international surveys in the context of global educational policy on lifelong learning, Educational Studies in Mathematics: Special Issue on Social Theory in Mathematics Education (forthcoming).