Effects of the new Adult Education Math Standards


I am presently working on my doctoral degree (University of Kentucky) with a focus on mathematics anxiety and self-efficacy amongst adults taking abe math classes.  One of my committee members has asked me to write a small paper on how the new standards will influence adults mathematics self-efficacy (confidence).  I was wondering if anyone has come across any literature that talks about the possible effects related to the new standards? 

I will also be posting this within the Numeracy strand since I am part of both groups.


Maranda Miller


Hi Maranda,

I think you need to reframe your research question a bit. The standards do not directly influence adults' self-efficacy around mathematics learning. How teachers interpret the standards and actually teach will have an affect on students' self-efficacy. In my view, it's too much of a stretch to jump over the teachers and make or test a claim about how standards influence students. 

I would suggest that you attempt to determine through interviews and classroom observations of actual teachers whether and to what extent the standards lead to any observable changes in what teachers are teaching, or how they are teaching it. Some may predict or hope that there will be a significant shift in the content that teachers are teaching. And some predict or hope there will be a shift in how they will be teaching it. I think the changes in content could be modest (representing the subset of content that teachers think will show up on high-stakes assessments and that they actually feel confident teaching), and pedagogy will shift very, very little. 

I do some work in Kentucky and could perhaps continue this conversation off-line. Reach me at steve.hinds57@gmail.com.

Best, Steve


Hi Maranda, 

I agree with Steve's response about how it is unlikely that the standards themselves will directly effect adult students' sense of efficacy. In addition to looking at classroom instruction and changes in what and how teachers are teaching, you might also look at the change in testing philosophy and how it is effecting student self-efficacy. In the past, when one of my students would work for several semesters and finally get over the hump and get that 410 in math, they would be so proud of the work they did and feel a real sense of accomplishment. In the current testing environment, at least two of the three high stakes HSE assessments are full of content that is beyond the scope of what graduating high school seniors are able to do. As a result, the cut scores for those exams (and their readiness tests), which are normed against the performance of high school students, are going to be low. That might have some serious effects on students' sense of themselves and their abilities. When getting 6 or 7 answers correct out of 20 questions on a readiness test indicates that a test-taker is likely to pass the actual assessment, I really fear for students' sense of themselves. They may pass, because the cut score is so low, but they are also going to know that they left more than half the exam blank or randomly guessed. I am nervous that even students who pass will leave the testing experience thinking, "This is not for me. I can't do this. I'm not college material". 

Another facet of all of this where the standards (or how they are being interpreted by test writers or teachers) stand to effect students' sense of efficacy will be for adult learners who are also parents. They face new and serious challenges in terms of being able to keep their kids from falling behind.

Thanks for taking on this very serious question.

Mark Trushkowsky                                                                                                                                                                               Mathematics Professional Development Coordinator                                                                                                                                         CUNY Adult Literacy and High School Equivalency Program