Statistics for Action Moves Adult Learning Out of the Classroom, Into the Community

March 30, 2009



CAMBRIDGE, MA–If you are an adult, you don’t have to go back to school to learn valuable math. Statistics for Action (SfA) leaves the classroom for community meeting spaces and living rooms to help citizens understand limits and regulations regarding toxic chemicals, environmental test results, and the benefits and costs of toxic clean-up as they pertain to their everyday lives and livelihoods.

The NSF has funded this unique partnership between TERC, The Toxics Action Center, and environmental action groups reaching citizens in twelve states. SfA researchers are developing materials (including training manuals, videos, and fact sheets) to help environmental organizers and the citizen activists they serve grasp mathematical concepts— e.g., quantifying hazards, interpreting text results, and comparing large numbers—in relevant contexts ranging from how to gauge toxic levels of carcinogens in parts per billion to how to analyze the short-term profits versus the long-term expenses of building a landfill. Based on prior research and trial runs of SfA materials and methodologies, project researchers anticipate that citizens will be empowered to communicate environmental and health concerns to their neighbors, elected officials, and decision-makers accurately and confidently in their understanding of the numbers that underlie local issues.

Statistics for Action draws heavily on TERC’s prior work in adult education classrooms and with after-school educators. Partners for this project include the Toxics Action Center, the Pesticide Watch Education Fund, the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, Operation Green Leaves, the New England Literacy Resource Center and the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization.