Author Archives: Duren_Thompson

How Do You Support Adult Education and Family Literacy?

aefl 2012This week, EFFTIPS joins practitioners and organizations across the United States as we celebrate Adult Education and Family Literacy Week, declared by act of the US Congress for the 4th year in a row.

According to the latest national survey of adults, more than 93 million American adults have Basic or Below Basic literacy skills that limit their ability to advance at work and in education, help their children with school work, take care of their family’s health, and participate in their communities.

Have you, or has your program, sponsored any activities in support of this celebration? If so please comment and share!

The (US) National Coalition for Literacy spearheads this annual effort to raise awareness of and promote adult education and literacy, family literacy, and English language development in the United States – nicknamed AEFL. In partnership with CLASP, they developed and disseminated a great summary of the need for and importance of adult education efforts: Adult Education, Jobs, and the Economy Fact Sheet. More information on this campaign can be found on NCL’s AEFL website.

EFFTIPS wholeheartedly supports this awareness effort! The Equipped for the Future project is grounded in a belief that ALL adults should have the “… knowledge and skills necessary to compete in a global economy and exercise the rights and responsibilities of citizenship.” [Goals 2000]  This belief is reflected throughout EFF’s work, and drove the development of the framework , which began with an analysis of adult’s critical work functions and key activities in the goal’s three primary roles: Worker, Parent and Family member, and Citizen and Community Member.*

Now while EFFTIPS is based in the US, we are proud to have subscribers from other nations – Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and others – and Wordpress tells us we have readers from all over the world.  Reflecting upon this US National campaign, we wondered about adult education and literacy awareness/support in other nations. So to our international readers we ask:

What are the issues in Adult Literacy and ESL education in your country (or area)?  How great is the need? Do you have national support and/or adequate funding?

What do you do to raise awareness and increase support in your country (or area)? Do you involve your learners, and if so how? 

These questions fit our US readership as well, so we look forward to a great international conversation!

*For more information on the EFF Role Maps, or the development of the EFF Framework, visit  or contact us via


In the News: Combating the Negative Effects of Math Anxiety

Duren Thompson
EFFTIPS Editor/Admin

Here’s something we found online that seems like an interesting idea for adult education practitioners:

Today I ran across this from Science Daily:
Math Anxiety Causes Trouble for Students as Early as First Grade

…which brings together two articles co-written by researcher Sian L. Beilock from the University of Chicago (see references below). Beilock and his co-authors have been involved in research focused on causes and solutions for math anxiety in very young learners.  Aware that many adult learners describe or exhibit math anxieties (based on my own experiences and those related by adult education practitioners), I thought this information might be applicable to what we do.

One result of the research examined in this article1 is a better understanding of the relationship between working memory and math anxiety – in even the youngest learners. In the Science Daily article, Beilock is quoted as saying:

“You can think of working memory as a kind of ‘mental scratchpad’ that allows us to ‘work’ with whatever information is temporarily flowing through consciousness.  It’s especially important when we have to do a math problem and juggle numbers in our head.”

Worries about math can disrupt working memory, which students could otherwise use to succeed.”

This research goes on to posit that those with stronger working memory are likely to be more affected by math anxiety  (an interesting implication for those with learning disabilities in math), but Beilock also strongly cautions that:

“Educators should not only consider math learning in terms of concepts, procedures, math curricula and instruction but also the emotions and anxieties children may bring to the learning situation.”

We’ve touched on the importance of addressing math fears previously in a post where Donna Curry recommended that algebra fear can be combated by, “Activities based on real-life examples, solved with concrete tools like [play] money or other manipulatives…”  More ideas can be found in another article cited by Science Daily,2 in which authors Beilock and Maloney state, “… regulation of the negativity associated with math situations may increase math success, even for those individuals who are chronically math anxious.”

Two techniques for helping learners to regulate or ‘reframe’ math anxiety suggested by the authors are:

Expressive writing: Have students write about their worries regarding math ahead of time. This is believed to help students to, “…download worries and minimize anxiety’s effects on working memory.” For students with low writing ability (or very young students), “…expressive picture drawing, rather than writing, may also help lessen the burden of math anxiety.”

Support an emotional shift: Anxiety is a ‘heightened’ or aroused emotional state. Teachers can help students to shift their thinking to a more advantageous heightened emotional state like anticipation. For example, “…when students view a math test as a challenge rather than a threat,” their performance increases as their emotions are heightened (vs anxiety which reduces performance as it grows stronger).

What do you think? Is this information useful to you?  Please share your thoughts about math anxiety!

What are your experiences with students with math anxiety? Do you have other ways you help learners to reduce their fears?

Have you used either of these approaches with Adult Learners?  I’m wondering if expressive writing could also tie into strengthening writing fluency or confidence?

Have you recently found something interesting ‘in the news’? If so – let us know at



1 Ramirez, G., Gunderson, E.A., Levine, S.C. and Beilock, S.L. (2012 in press) Math anxiety, working memory and math achievement in early elementary school. Journal of Cognition and Development.  Retrieved on 9/13/12 from
(Note, I had trouble downloading this – right clicking on the link and choosing ‘save target as’ worked for me.)

2 Maloney, E. A., & Beilock, S. L. (2012). Math anxiety: who has it, why it develops, and how to guard against it. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 16(8), 404-406.  Retrieved on 9/13/12 from