Policy to Improve Math Teaching and Learning in Adult Basic Education: A Perspective from Massachusetts

This paper is informed by adult numeracy development in Massachusetts--including what has worked and what has fallen short. The state has developed policy and invested in implementing Adult Basic Education (ABE) program design (“opportunity to learn”) standards, student learning/content standards (mathematics curriculum framework), and embedding a range of important supports for ABE teachers, including paid preparation and professional development time in the ABE Rates System, which are one of the “building blocks” for improving ABE math teaching and learning.
Bob Bickerton
Author(s) Organizational Affiliation
Massachusetts Department of Education
Publication Year
Resource Type
Number of Pages
This paper presents a comprehensive policy framework to help overcome the challenges of math insturction in the ABE classroom. Efforts in Massachusetts over the past three decades to advance effective mathematics teaching and learning, and the data generated by those efforts have led  to the conclusion that only through comprehensive, coordinated efforts can we provide our students with a genuine opportunity to pursue their dreams and aspirations, which, with each passing year, requires increasingly higher levels of math proficiency and fluency.  
What the experts say

The author has long been an advocate for improvement in ABE instruction, content standards, instructor standards (both subject matter knowledge and pedagogy), and assessment.  His long-term career goals and actions lead to the necessary improvement of numeracy instruction.  He knows of what he speaks.  This well-written article provides both an overview of the current (2011) national situation and the recipe for improvement by the implementation of knowledge, curricular content, and pedagogical standards.  His suggestions will take time, money, and intentional commitment to improvement.  Some of the suggestions (testing of instructor knowledge in math) will perhaps be threatening to ABE instructors, but the suggestions are valid and necessary. This is a very valuable paper.  It highlights the essential characteristics of ABE educators and the methods that states must introduce to encourage those characteristics among teaching staff.  The references highlighting the efforts that have been made by Massachusetts should be a helpful beginning to other states and local program administrators.

Resource Notice

This site includes links to information created by other public and private organizations. These links are provided for the user’s convenience. The U.S. Department of Education does not control or guarantee the accuracy, relevance, timeliness, or completeness of this non-ED information. The inclusion of these links is not intended to reflect their importance, nor is it intended to endorse views expressed, or products or services offered, on these non-ED sites.

Please note that privacy policies on non-ED sites may differ from ED’s privacy policy. When you visit lincs.ed.gov, no personal information is collected unless you choose to provide that information to us. We do not give, share, sell, or transfer any personal information to a third party. We recommend that you read the privacy policy of non-ED websites that you visit. We invite you to read our privacy policy.