Lack of math is a factor which often impedes further advancement. For example, there are many students who cannot enter the trades (or other subjects) of their choice because they lack the math prerequisites.(34)
Students who learn math as adults may well have had feelings and experiences of inadequacy and failure in math in earlier education. In addition, feelings about math may be linked to more general negative experiences with schooling in the past.(35)
For math and numeracy, sequencing is always an issue, in that it has traditionally been held that mathematical knowledge and skills should follow a logical sequence, in which one element builds upon another. However, for adult education, this can be a problem, in that time is at a premium, so the question arises as to whether certain areas of skill and knowledge are strictly necessary. In particular, there is debate over the extent to which students must master fractions and long divisions - or whether areas such as these can be bypassed (for the time being) while students work with calculators and computers.
Aside from sequencing, there is the question of what to focus on in the programs: math is a vast field, and many areas are relevant. For example, is enough attention being paid to statistics and data analysis, as compared with other areas of math?
One challenge which affects publicly-funded programs and services is the concern over accountability, and the need to provide assurances that taxpayers' money is being well spent. Ideally, expenditures should be related to the desired outcomes: for example, if numeracy programs are supposed to contribute to employability, then success in finding jobs would be the appropriate measure.
However, it is a very difficult and complex task to ensure accountability on this basis. In the job-finding example, many other factors may contribute to employability, and we may not know exactly which aspects of numeracy are the most important. It is also difficult to do the necessary research over a wide range of programs and students with different situations and goals.
34 Lack of literacy and numeracy were mentioned as the top two blocking factors, in that order.
35 This was mentioned as a problem for older aboriginal students who had gone through the residential school system.
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