[Numeracy 389] Barriers to PSE in math

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Andrew Isom isom at centerforliteracy.org
Wed Jun 16 11:55:54 EDT 2010

Hello all:

There are several barriers that I consider of necessity to address in order to prepare our students for PSE. Here are a few that I would include:

-- Number sense, including place value and magnitude: I feel that many students that are low in math, do not have a relationship to numbers that is concrete and meaningful, but rather a foreign language that makes little sense to them; addressing these topics can help students to have a more solid grasp on math as a sensible system, in general. Along with this, the question(s) of "does this answer make sense?" and, if so, "on what grounds?" can be addressed. It is highly uncommon for my students to think in these terms at all. It's like spinning the roulette wheel and hoping that the correct answer comes out.

-- Faith in their own ability and, in turn, perseverance. The students that I have taught have so seldomly had faith that they are capable of learning difficult material and doing well, so that only the most minimal effort is justified. Relatedly, if they don't have a perfectly clear idea of how to solve the problem immediately, there is no effort made at trying to think it through, trial and error, or anything else that might lead them to a solution. I suppose that in addition to inspiring self-confidence, how to go about dealing with a new situation or working toward a solution when the path isn't clear could be taught as a lesson itself, though it's not totally clear how one would go about that, other than via modeling and leading questions.

-- Being comfortable expressing that they don't know something and not being ashamed to express that, as well as a willingness to seek out assistance.

-- Basic computation. This seems like it should go without saying, but I have been amazed at the large number of my students that cannot multiply multi-digit numbers and/or divide a single digit into a multi-digit number, let alone quick recall of addition and subtraction facts.

-- Partial values, conversion from each to the other, how, when and why to use them.

-- Tables, charts, and graphs: reading and interpreting, as well as construction of their own.

-- At least a basic understanding of variables and solving for unknowns.

And one for general life-preparation:

-- Numeracy, with an emphasis on probability and statistics (as John Allen Paulos would have it.)

Anything else, anyone? I haven't spent a lot of time looking at the pre-reqs for college success, so my list is mainly derived and the shortcomings that I have repeatedly butted up against in my instruction trying to lead students on a path to higher math. I would love to hear from anyone who has more experience with pre-college standards.

Andrew J. Isom
Math Specialist
Center For Literacy
North Philadelphia Community High School
isom at centerforliteracy.org
(215)744-6000 ext. 210

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Subject: Numeracy Digest, Vol 6, Issue 5

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Message: 1
Date: Mon, 14 Jun 2010 13:14:00 -0400
From: "Dianna Baycich" <dbaycich at literacy.kent.edu>
Subject: [Numeracy 382] Re: Transitioning from GED to Post-Secondary
To: "'The Math and Numeracy Discussion List'" <numeracy at nifl.gov>
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I would like to hear what folks think are barriers, too. I'm more of a
reading and writing person and I would like to see the similarities and
differences with math. One thing I see for writing is that GED teachers tend
to teach students how to write a very formulaic 5 paragraph essay as a way
to pass the essay portion of the GED test. Unfortunately, this in no way
prepares them for the writing tasks they will be expected to do in
postsecondary education. Are similar things happening in math? Or are the
barriers different?


From: numeracy-bounces at nifl.gov [mailto:numeracy-bounces at nifl.gov] On Behalf
Of Denney, Brooke
Sent: Wednesday, June 09, 2010 11:08 AM
To: numeracy at nifl.gov
Subject: [Numeracy 380] Transitioning from GED to Post-Secondary Ed

Hello Everyone!

I just finished presenting at the Louisiana Adult Education Conference where
I spoke about transitioning from GED to PSE. But after speaking with many
of their wonderful instructors, staffers, administrators, etc. about
barriers, it dawned on me that perhaps the discussion list should discuss
the barriers that our learners face, the barriers that our instructors face,
and how might we try to overcome them? How can we prepare our learners for
the world of higher education? I can't wait to hear what everyone thinks!!

Also, I wanted to WELCOME all the new members we have to the list!! I
encourage you to post a brief introduction about yourself and tell us what
you hope to gain from being apart of this list. If anyone has questions or
concerns please feel free to contact me off list at denneyb at cowley.edu.

All my best to everyone,

Brooke Denney, Moderator

Math & Numeracy List

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