Mapping the Adult Numeracy Curriculum: Cultural Capital and Conscientization

Helen Oughton


This study explores learners’ accounts of what they want from an
adult numeracy curriculum, using mindmaps to construct and present a
snapshot of their current conceptions of the curriculum. Analysis of the
resulting maps finds that for most participants, the desired curriculum is
constructed in terms of school mathematics. However, for one group,
exposed to wider issues of social justice, the curriculum is constructed in
terms of situated practice and financial literacy. The discussion draws on
Bernstein’s theories of curriculum and ideology; Freire’s conscientization;
and research on adults’ motivations for learning numeracy. It is suggested
that most learners in this study value the cultural capital associated with
school mathematics, and that these learners wish to engage with the
challenge set by school mathematics. However, a minority of learners
appeared to undergo a process of conscientization, formulating ideas for a
numeracy curriculum relevant to adults’ lives.

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