Teaching old dogs new tricks
The first draft of Chapter Eight addresses the toughest of questions in adult numeracy: How do we teach old dogs new tricks?
The quote directly below the title: "So how you gonna teach a old dog new tricks?" comes from an adult learner discussing his frustration with the mathematical demands of his programme.
The experiences of 'old dogs' (adult learners) who have developed negative beliefs about mathematics are devastating. The cuts run deep. When a 46 year old man can recount unpleasant conversations he had with a maths teacher when aged 10, you know those early experiences matter. Being positioned by your peers and significant others as 'not good at maths', and then coming to accepting this as fact, does not just change. It sticks.
Learning mathematics is entirely to do with how you engage with it. Do the beliefs, developed during early experiences, influence how 'old dogs' engage? Undoubtedly.
As a nation we invest large sums of money predicated on the notion that an adult who struggled to learn mathematics during school, and developed negative beliefs, will re-engage and learn in a vocational setting.
How did we arrive at our conclusion?
And what do we do if we were wrong?
The answers are far more complex than I ever guessed at the beginning of this journey. The stakes are also higher for the learners than I ever imagined.