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The Troika of Adult Learners, Lifelong Learning, and Mathematics

Katherine Safford-Ramus, Pradeep Kumar Misra, and Terry Maguire
Springer Open
Publication Date: 
Number of Pages: 
ICME-13 Topical Surveys
[Reviewed by
Charles Ashbacher
, on

This book is based on two truths that math people hold as self-evident: learning mathematics is important and should take place throughout your life. A secondary truth that is much harder to verify and convince people of is that it is possible for people to learn mathematics at an “advanced age.”

The days are gone when a person could leave school, work at one or two jobs for a few years to gain experience and then settle into a position where, decades later, there is a congratulatory speech, gold watch and a rapid dissolution of your memory at the organization. Evolution and change, both incremental and rapid, are the new norm and require a constant update of skills. One of the most essential skills is the logical reasoning inherent in mathematics.

This booklet is a “Topical Survey” in preparation for ICME-13, to be held in Hamburg on July 24–31 this year. It is only 33 pages long, so it is not possible for the authors to do a great deal of development, yet they do cover most of the essentials of adult learning of mathematics and there is an extensive bibliography.

The authors discuss points such as dealing with math phobia, the differences between the learning strategies of adults versus traditional students, and (what is perhaps the key point) how to deal with the adult learner that is being required to take math. Many of the learners know that they must take classes in order to advance, or in some cases to keep their current job. It is essential that this pressure and anxiety be dealt with if the adult learner is to succeed.

As a primer on the increasingly important subject of adult learners of mathematics, this book is quite good. However, it should have been subject to a more stringent proofreading process. 

Charles Ashbacher splits his time between consulting with industry in projects involving math and computers, and teaching college classes. In his spare time, he reads about these things and helps his daughter in her lawn care business.

See the table of contents in the publisher's webpage.