ALM25 Conference incorporating NANAMIC 2018

25th Adults Learning Mathematics – international conference, London,  9th – 12th July, 2018

Conference schedule

ALM25 Conference Programme with short abstracts

ALM25 Long abstracts

Boundaries and Bridges: adults learning mathematics in a fractured world

The conference also incorporates a one day conference for the UK practitioner organisation the National Association for Numeracy and Mathematics in Colleges (NANAMIC) on Tuesday 10th July.

Host: the Post 14 Centre for Education and Work at UCL Institute of Education, London, United Kingdom

Venue: The conference is being held at the UCL Institute of Education. The address is 20 Bedford Way, London WC1H 0AL. The nearest underground station is Russell Square although it is also a short walk from Goodge Street, Euston Square and Euston and near to Kings Cross. There will be a welcome desk at the entrance and directions. 

Monday 9th July Evening reception, Main conference Tuesday 10th July – Thursday 12th July

When planning your travel you might want to take into account that on Monday 9th July at 3pm we are organising a free visit to the British Museum and a substantially discounted trip to Kew Gardens on Thursday 12th July in the afternoon (expect to be back in Central London at 5.30pm).

We are excited to announce the following plenary speakers:

Monday evening reception:

  • Rob Eastaway, Director of Maths Inspiration and winner of the Zeeman medal for excellence in the promotion of maths. Rob’s siteGetting adults engaged in mathematics

How do you get an adult engaged in maths? And what is the best way to turn them off the subject? Since he last spoke at an ALM conference – over 20 years ago – Rob Eastaway has enjoyed an exciting career in communicating maths to audiences of every age group, on the radio, in schools and pubs, at the Edinburgh Fringe, and even in a prison. In this plenary session he will talk about some of his experiences, from dealing with the maths anxieties of parents, to discovering the maths topic that got a group of prisoners at Pentonville most excited.

Tuesday 10th July

  • Professor Chris Budd, University of Bath and Gresham College. See the latest series of lectures here. Inspiring mathematics

One of the main barriers to adults learning mathematics is a lack of appreciation of what mathematics really is, what it can do, its relevance to our lives and, above all, its creative nature. This lack of appreciation can lead to a feeling that mathematics is a dull and boring subject which is not worth learning and can never be understood or appreciated. In this talk, I will show that this view of mathematics could not be further from the truth. To do this I will draw on a number of examples that I have found very effective in inspiring adult learners of mathematics. These will include a show case of some of the ways that mathematicians have changed the world in which we live, some mathematical magic, some mathematical art, and some ‘mathematical experiments that you can try at home’. Be warned, audience participation will be expected.

Bobby is enthusiastic about numbers, whether working with adults in his role as an ambassador for the National Numeracy charity that seeks to improve adult numeracy or as a school maths teacher with young students. However, he appreciates that once learners leave school, many people’s negative classroom experiences scar their adult relationships with maths and numeracy. Bobby’s doctoral research at Cambridge University is about maths anxiety and phobia. He will share his understanding of why there is such antipathy towards maths, that one wouldn’t find with other subjects such as English. To change cultural attitudes towards maths takes time, but is important to start now.

Wednesday 11th July

  • Dr. Gail FitzSimons, Editorial Board, Adults Learning Mathematics – An International Journal Adults Learning Mathematics: Transcending boundaries and barriers in an uncertain world

In this plenary I will address briefly the possible interests that adults might have in learning mathematics in a fractured and fragmented world with constantly changing horizons in terms of politics, economics, technology, the environment, and so on. I will draw on Bernstein’s theories to stress the importance of understanding the big ideas of mathematics, and hence its underlying structures and relationships, in order to support numeracy in this era of change. In addition I emphasise the importance of keeping adult mathematics and numeracy practitioners and researchers professionally informed through having access to high quality research related to their interests, such as ALM’s own journal. As a member of the founding editorial team, I will recall salient aspects of the formative process that was also an important learning experience for the three of us at the time.

  • Professor Candia Morgan, UCL Institute of Education The evolution of discourse in high stakes assessment

High-stakes assessments such as the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) in the UK have a strong influence on the actions and orientations of teachers and students. Examinations define the kinds of mathematics that students are expected to engage with, not only by overt specifications but also by the ways in which questions are posed and the types of answers demanded. In a recent project in collaboration with Anna Sfard, we developed a scheme for analysing the discourse of examination questions and applied this to an extensive set of examination questions in order to investigate how expectations about student engagement in mathematics may have changed over time.

Following a brief introduction to the theoretical and methodological orientation of the project, two key issues will be discussed. Firstly, the role of contextualisation of mathematics: how has this changed over time and what difference may it make to students’ mathematical activity? Secondly, mathematical and linguistic complexity: changes over time and dilemmas for examiners and teachers. Finally, I will consider how the findings and the analytical tools of the project can be used by teachers preparing students for examinations, including consideration of recent changes in the GCSE examination.

Thursday 12th July

Wanting to (re)learn maths skills, an adult peruses the Learndirect website, which offers qualifications and courses. (UK adult quantitative skills are relatively weak.) With some difficulty, she finds out that Learndirect is owned by a private equity division of one of the banks that precipitated the financial crash of 2008 and after further diligence discovers that Learndirect has been the subject of highly critical reports by a government inspector but has received preferential financial support from the same government.
The tale introduces twin themes. (1) In England (and much of the rest of the UK) post school learning – outside of higher education – is occluded if not actually ignored. Adult education is, largely, a policy oxymoron. Programmes – such as the new apprenticeship scheme — are disjointed. Quantitative capacity is lacking – but we need to explain why, despite the evidence for commercial and individual benefit, this capacity shows no sign of improving substantially . If, simply put, numbers make money, why is adult numeracy not actively propagated?
(2) Numbers are unavoidably political. Becoming more adept at statistics can’t be separated from acquiring better understanding of how numbers are generated and for what purpose. Sometimes, the view is taken that statistical literacy is about technique. Of course it is but it must also embrace awareness of who is generating numbers, for what purpose.
Conclusion. In Britain this is a dark decade. We can’t naively say that numeracy (statistical enlightenment) is a precondition of progress. But better skills are needed. We’re seeing a backlash against the ‘tyranny of metrics’, fuelled from both right and left. That’s healthy, provided it doesn’t reinforce a culture in which basic technique is still limited and too many have to resort to the poor second chance offer of such companies as Learndirect.

The call for sessions is now closed.

ALM conference support needed – ‘student / unawaged members’ can apply to assist the running of the conference. ALM Conference supporter

Conference fees CLICK HERE TO BOOK Booking now closed

Full conference (this includes the evening reception, refreshments and lunch during the three days of the conference and the conference dinner on Wednesday evening but not accommodation, breakfast nor other evening meals)

£300 (ALM/NANAMIC members)

£320 (non members)

One day (this includes refreshments and lunch on the day of attendance)

£99 (ALM/NANAMIC members)

£120 (non members)

Financial support to attend conference

ALM provides financial support to practitioners and researchers from institutions involved in Adults Learning Mathematics with limited resources to visit international conferences such as ALM25.
You can download the Bursary Form 2018 here. Support is given on a first-come first served basis.
For additional questions please contact ALM directly by e-mailing to


There are a range of places available in the area (search Expedia/ but be careful that you don’t book something too far away. The area is called Bloomsbury and Euston Station is the closest main station.

The Garden Halls, Cartwright Gardens and College Hall, Malet St run by the University of London are good value (Book via

The Royal National Hotel is across the road from UCL Institute of Education and you can book rooms for £88 per night (Book here

Conference organisation committee: Diane Dalby, Jeff Evans, Graham Griffiths, Linda Jarlskog (ALM26 observer), David Kaye, Beth Kelly (Committee chair), Joan O’Hagan, Helen Oughton, Jenny Stacey and Peter Whitehead (NANAMIC).

To contact the team with ideas and for queries about the conference, email: