Power In Numbers and The Math Gap

Posted on September 18, 2017


Executive Summary (tl/dr;)   — I read some stuff.   Luminary Labs, LLC  is writing some cool stuff about industry, ed tech, adult ed and OER.  (Ack!  I cornfounded them with Lum1na foundation, not the same entity at all!)


Long version 🙂

Listened to “Bored and Brilliant” discussion on NPR over the weekend.   Gives one thought about the effects of screen time and the phone being like a baby– demanding attention at its whim — and a pacifier… we can turn to it for stimulation whenever we like.   “Day 2” of its something-day program says you must be screen-free for your transit.  On the bike I am — mostly, if I’m not staring at the Garmin 🙂   It’s only delivering my ride stats, but yes, it’s a pacifier (but without it, I can lapse into the same kind of non-creative numerical analysis of my trips).   The premise of “Bored and Brilliant” is that it’s when we’re waiting for things that we think of stuff (well, especially if we actually try to).

I’m also reading the Luminary Lab’s _The Math Gap:   Implications for Investing in America’s Workforce.   I’m resolving to go through my posts and make a new “category” for the ones that have citations so that I can find them when I want to respond with evidence (this article’s full of citations!)  This is the organization behind the “Power in Numbers” project that I’m involved in, using and reviewing adult ed lessons.

We open with discussing the barriers math presents to learners — “confidence, contextualization, and learner mindset are key to increasing math skills.”

No. mention. whatsoever. of actual pedagogy and/or teaching methods.

HOWEVER.   It does dive into this later.  Regarding the high education level of most adult educators:   “The story these numbers do
not tell, however, is the uneven preparation across educators for the realities of the
adult educational classroom.”   As in, how much do they know about education?  math?  both?   oh, and *adult* ed?   … and then what about the very mixed levels of the learners they’re trying to teach?

Then that other little reality:   that only 35% of the students who *do* finish all of the remediation actually pass something college-level within 3 years.

There’s a  whole heading for _Retraining is Crucial for Educators, Not Just Learners,_  because there be gaps in using technology and/or understanding things like mindset… and, methinks… how to teach if that’s not what you’ve been doing with your knowledge.

The “Potential of Technology to Meet Key Needs in Adult Education” chart is something I’d like to talk a lot about and… yea, I could help you do this… get past “instructional videos” and into “agile and intuitive digital tools.”


They specifically mention “new and important” brain science that says (wait for it) that

… wait for it…

“our brains want to think visually about math.”

Oh, and “improved math achievement comes about when there is more communication between areas of the brain.”

Erm, yup.   Don’t have time to find all the places I’ve seen where the research and I have been saying this… it’s tucked into the descriptions of so many successful programs of all kinds of different flavors.

We segue from “all the cool things tech *could* do in the future”  into  educators “honing in on OER,” then info about OER and its advantages.   There isn’t so much about how we’re going to have OER that do all that future stuff but … I could help, eh?

Then two paragraphs that could have been ten pages about the limitations, ending with “… and learning math may be particularly difficult online.”   Yup.

The next two paragraphs give me hope if they’re being heeded. They’re about the idea that the tech that claims to teach math doesn’t.  (Don’t have time to find. all the p..)

Broadly, most failures in adult edtech can be traced back to design that does not
meet the needs and constraints of learners. Tools need to be contextualized and
take into consideration the learner’s needs and past experiences.82 And, ultimately, face-to-face instruction may still be a better option for a wide variety of learners. Good educational tools should therefore not seek to replace in-person teaching, but enhance and/or extend it.

Then a nifty chart about “Accessibility, Adaptability, and Applicability” that is pretty awesome.

Now, the emphasis on “industry says we need this! Learning is all about preparing for a JOB!”  has me fearful of a little too much ‘contextualization’ but the world changes so fast that extremely specific (contextualized) training is unlikely to happen. Also, “Applicability” is only one of those 3 As….

The article ends w/ a wish-list of … groups that could collaborate.   Oh, and pages and pages of endnotes 🙂 That nice circle under “Designing for Learner Needs” that has educators, adult learners and ed tech developers — can I join?