Adult Learner

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Adult Numeracy is the ability to interpret and communicate mathematical ideas and content to meet the demands of the real world. Adults' confidence in their Numeracy skills increases the likelihood of their use in real-life situations.

Main ideas:

A significant portion of U.S. adults, roughly 30 million (16%), struggle with basic math skills. Numeracy includes four interwoven strands of skills and conceptual knowledge that build on each other:

  • Number and operations involves the understanding of numbers, their representations, relationships, and basic computations.
  • Patterns, functions, and algebra includes identifying and discussing patterns in numbers as well as understanding and using mathematical reasoning to solve problems.
  • Measurement and shape knowledge is essential to a variety of real-world applications.
  • Data, statistics and probability skills help learners make predictions, understand generalizations, and interpret information.

Numeracy skills, a key part of financial literacy, are incredibly important, as they often influence a household's economic stability. For example, those with poor Numeracy skills are twice as likely to face employment difficulties. Research has shown women and older adults demonstrate poorer Numeracy skills than their counterparts, possibly due to the effects of Stereotype Threat. Despite other cognitive declines with age, adult Numeracy, which relies heavily on stored knowledge, does not show a decline.

Without targeted support, dyscalculia- a neurodevelopmental learning disorder that typically impairs the ability to represent number- can persist into adulthood and can contribute to difficulties in other areas of Numeracy. Adults with dyslexia may also demonstrate difficulties with verbal arithmetic, and reading and writing numbers similar to the difficulties with letters and words they typically experience during reading acquisition, possibly due to difficulties with phonological processing and verbal Working Memory. These difficulties do not typically interfere with more complex mathematical abilities, so it is important to watch for signs of deeper struggles with Numeracy that may be indicators of dyscalculia and can interfere with daily activities such as dealing with time or money. There is often overlap between dyslexia and dyscalculia, though the two can present separately.

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