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Adult Learner > Strategies > Real-world Math

Real-world Math


When instructors are able to provide context, and connect math concepts to an adult learner's world, math can be seen as relevant and applicable to their daily lives and work- a core aspect of adult Numeracy. These real-world connections are also great ways to integrate math with other disciplines to create cross-curricular connections, supporting Disciplinary Literacy, and fostering confidence and Motivation by helping adults see the relevance of all they are learning. As math is one of the few topics that is typically taught without historical or cultural context, it is particularly important that instruction focus on relevance to best support students from all backgrounds. As adults' lives can vary immensely from person to person, it is important to be aware of the relevance of the real-world context to the learners' individual and cultural contexts so that the connections are truly "real-world".

Use It In Your Learning Environment

Instructors can ask learners to bring in their own mathematical problems based on their own lives. This requires them to make and understand the connection between their own lived experiences and math. Not only does this ensure that these contexts are relevant to the learner and provide them an opportunity to co-create math instruction, it allows them to build upon knowledge they already own. In addition, asking adults to make these connections can promote the kinds of higher order thinking needed to abstract mathematical concepts from more concrete real-world scenarios and supports understanding of conceptually difficult concepts.

Both instructors and products can offer diverse types of problems that are situated in real-world, global contexts. For example, structuring math problems within the lens of social justice not only ties in content from other subjects, like history and literature, but it also allows learners to solve problems that may be personally meaningful to them. As such, making math authentic and relevant to the real world both enables learners to see the value in math and to actually better understand problems and possible solutions in their daily lives.