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Unlatching the Gate: Helping Adult Students Learn Mathematics

Katherine Safford-Ramus
Publication Date: 
Number of Pages: 
[Reviewed by
Aldine van der Ham-Aaten
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This book is meant for instructors who teach mathematics to adult students. In six chapters, it gives insight in the main facts, theories, traditions and research of respectively the adult mathematics education system, human learning, adult learning, mathematics education theory, research. The final chapter discusses how to proceed having read the five proceeding chapters. Lists of aspects of theories and of outcomes of experiments enlarge the readability of the book.

Safford-Ramus discusses an abundance of aspects that can influence adult mathematics education: from lack of ICT facilities to students with a demanding home situation, from the subjects that ought (or not) to be taught to the way students’ knowledge can be assessed, from students’ attitudes towards mathematics, the teacher and their own mathematical capabilities to educational methods that can be used in class.

The book does what it promises: in only 186 pages, it gives an overview of the theories and research relevant to adult mathematics education and leaves it to the reader to form an opinion. The small size of the book means, of course, that theories aren’t discussed extensively. Few relations have been stated and no conclusions are drawn, which sometimes makes the text simply a large list of things to know. The viewpoint Safford-Ramus does take is to stress the importance of sharing knowledge: sharing knowledge of one’s own teaching practice, of experiments and of research, by both instructors and scientists.

The qualities of the book are a bit obscured by its looks: the paper is yellowish, the pages have small margins, and the few graphs look a bit sloppy. Leaving this aspect as it is, the book is very useful as an introductory text. In my opinion, it should be read by anyone who is taking on a job as mathematics instructor of adults.

Aldine van der Ham-Aaten is a PhD student at Utrecht University, the Netherlands. Her fields of interest are mathematics education and history of mathematics.

The table of contents is not available.