Numeracy: Language Construction of Whose Mathematics CRLRA Discussion Paper Series.Report as inadecuate

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A study identified some implicit concepts, knowledge, and skills that a seemingly standard adult literacy and numeracy "lesson" contains. Conversation analysis was used to show instances of how adult numeracy is embedded in adult language and literacy. The "conversation" was a transcript from an adult literacy class for long-term unemployed adult men that began with a recall segment about question and answer patterns. Two types of questions were compared: those occurring "naturally" as part of the "common sense" made during the classroom conversations and those asked as part of the instructional content of the lesson appropriate to the subject matter of mathematics. Analysis showed how language and literate practices in the adult literacy classroom created the reality that adult learners come to recognize as the subjects mathematics or numeracy. Two implications were explored. First, considerable differences between school mathematics and real-life numeracy raised the dilemma of what should be taught. Second, embedding of language with particular sets of valued "content areas" caused teachers to reproduce school-based practices and discourses for adults who had already experienced school failure and implied that literacy and numeracy teachers be trained in language interaction patterns and ways for teachers and adult students to manage them to achieve an identified purpose. (Contains 28 references.) (YLB)

Descriptors: Adult Basic Education, Classroom Techniques, Communication Research, Communication (Thought Transfer), Content Analysis, Developed Nations, Discourse Analysis, Foreign Countries, Literacy Education, Males, Mathematics Achievement, Numeracy, Regional Characteristics, Skill Analysis, Sociocultural Patterns, Speech Communication, Unemployment

Centre for Research and Learning in Regional Australia, P.O. Box 1214, Launceston, Tasmania 7250, Australia, Tel: 03 6324 3142, Fax: 03 6324 3040, E-mail: Lamanda.Harris[at], Web site: ($3 Australian).

Author: Falk, Ian


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