Changing the Way We Teach Math: A Manual for Teaching Basic Math to Adults

This document is a manual for teaching basic math to adults.

Kate Nonesuch
Author(s) Organizational Affiliation
Malaspina University-College
Cowichan Campus
Duncan, British Columbia
Publication Year
Resource Type
Instructional Material
Number of Pages
Product Type

This document is a manual for teaching basic math to adults. Written as part of a project funded by the Canadian National Office of Literacy and Learning (NOLL), it was designed for use by adult basic education instructors who are interested in changing their teaching practice. The document is based on recommendations from the research on teaching numeracy to adults and was written after consultation with more than 100 practitioners in British Columbia. The document includes "best practices," difficulties instructors face and suggestions for overcoming them, and pages of activities for classroom use.

Chapter 1: Describes the process used by the author in consulting the literature and the field.

Chapter 2: Resistance to changing traditional math practice

Chapter 3: Emotions in teaching and learning math

Chapter 4: Hands-on learning: manipulatives and visual and practical presentations

Chapter 5: Group activities

Chapter 6: Real-life math

Chapter 7: Strategies for putting students in charge of their own learning

Chapter 8: Activities for various content areas of basic math

What the experts say

This resource provides practitioners with practical math activities to try in the classroom. It also alerts the practitioner on what to watch for in their students and areas of difficulty they may encounter. The author is trying to support practitioners as they attempt to change the way they teach numeracy to their students. So many practitioners are isolated and fearful of trying new methodologies. This manual provides the needed support and guidance practitioners need as they explore new strategies with their students. The manual also provides reproducible activities and a variety of resources for further investigation.

This manual addresses a critical need for adult numeracy teachers - how to incorporate a conceptual focus into what historically has been a purely computational goal in basic mathematics instruction. Ms Nonesuch uses experiences of her own and other basic skills mathematics teachers to describe four particular strategies that are important to making the transition to more active learning in numeracy classrooms.

  1. hands-on learning,
  2. group work,
  3. using real-life situations for teaching math, and
  4. giving students responsibility for their learning.

She discusses breaking down the barriers that arise to making change, particularly the ones erected by the students themselves. Recognizing the importance of a productive disposition in learners, she introduces strategies that address emotions (particularly anxiety) that are detrimental to the process of learning.

The manual also includes reproducible worksheets that offer concrete examples of the strategies discussed earlier in the manual. They represent introductory activities that focus on building basic concepts (place value, fractions, percents) while practicing procedures.

Caution: One reviewer did express the following concerns. The author did not appear to be aware of the the body of research on adult numeracy, instructional strategies, the K-12 math reform movement, and the numeracy reform movements in North America, England, and Australia; the manual is written in an informal way and contains child-oriented activities that may not appeal to some teachers; and some of her web links are not valid.

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