The Math Gap: Implications for Investing in America’s Workforce
Given the ongoing growth of technical careers and demand for high-skill labor, there is a particular need for more technology to increase and quicken access for adult learners studying advanced mathematics. The adult classroom presents numerous barriers for all stakeholders; market signals require meeting learners and educators where they are.
Technology offers a promising fix to many of the challenges within adult education, but is not a silver bullet. It is not a cure-all for complex issues around funding, degree pathways, and teacher preparation, but presents promising solutions to many systemic challenges around access, resourcing, and contextualization.
This report showcases the potential for technology to enhance the teaching and learning of advanced math skills to adults, providing nuanced guidance for funders and educational innovators. We will discuss key stakeholders, their needs, and opportunities for investment to capitalize on the potential of technology to better ready adult learners for the workforce. In particular, we will delve into areas of key need like contextualization of classroom resources and professional development for educators.
Following a review of needs for relevant stakeholders (employers, adult learners, and educators) and a discussion of technology’s promise, we will introduce “three A’s” of adult edtech: Accessibility, Adaptability, and Applicability. These encapsulate and represent many ongoing cross-disciplinary calls to tailor new tools and approaches to the needs of learners and the educators who serve them, ultimately laddering up to the requirements of industry job creators. Several such efforts and technologies are particularly relevant to advanced math, and we will hone in on open educational resources (OER), a parallel movement in education to leverage digital technology and open source licensing to expand access.
This document was funded by the U.S. Department of Education Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education under the project titled “Power in Numbers: Advancing Math for Adult Learners” (OER Math project), Contract Number: ED-VAE-14-D-0006/0004, and it includes input from adult education practitioners, researchers, and policy experts.
This document is the first in a series of three reports on the state of the technology market for adult learners of advanced mathematics.
This initial report focuses on demand, including demand for advanced math skills, demand for new tools and approaches that meet learner and educator needs, and demand for teacher training to support deployment of new tools. Subsequent reports will focus on the landscape of existing tools for learning advanced mathematics, as well as opportunities to improve the creation and deployment of new tools for adult learners.
The purpose of these reports is to capitalize on the intersection of grassroots resource development, technology innovation, and labor market demand for skills to inform the future of adult advanced math education. In doing so we hope to illustrate the opportunity space for funders and technology developers to cater to this underserved market.