Curriculum Overview

Unique Features of the EMPower Curriculum

EMPower changes "business as usual" in four critical aspects: content, sequence, pedagogy, and teacher support.

  • The content is different. What is "basic" has been rethought through the lens of the mathematics that adults need to be able to do in contemporary society, a culture which depends flexible, fluent, and accurate command of numerical, statistical, algebraical, and geometrical understandings. These four conceptual strands have been the focus of the NCTM standards and much research in learning styles.
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  • The sequence is different. Algebraical, statistical, and geometrical ideas are developed along with, sometimes before, numerical ones. In this way, the developmental progression has a solid footing in all four strands.
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  • The pedagogy is different. Classrooms are learning communities, where participants share strategies and results of mathematical investigations.
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  • The teaching experience is different. Teachers are supported by many elements of the Teacher Book, an essential component of the EMPower program. Creating engaging mathematics learning experiences for all learners and their teachers has long been a focus of TERC's work.


The goal of EMPower is to help adults and adolescents manage the mathematical demands they meet in the various aspects of their lives:

  • Everyday life: finance, commerce, community, and leisure
  • Further education: high school equivalency and community college
  • Workplace

The EMPower Curriculum emphasizes:

  • Data analysis, geometry and measurement, algebra, and number and operation sense at all student levels
  • Reliance on benchmark numbers - such as powers and multiples of 10, common fractions, and their decimal and percent equivalents--for making mental calculations
  • Early use of calculators to support computation
  • Development of reasoning on proportion and parts of quantities before consideration of formal operations with rational numbers
  • Making decisions about data where students generate, as well as interpret, graphical representations
  • Geometry and measurement based on opportunities to see and touch in developing an understanding of spatial relationships and formulas
  • Leading with patterns and relationships in contextual situations and the representations of these situations with diagrams, tables, graphs, verbal rules, and symbolic notation to develop algebraic competence

Curriculum activities provide:

  • Clear mathematical goals
  • Contexts that are engaging and useful for young people and adults
  • Opportunities to strengthen mathematical language and communication skills
  • Various ways of entering and solving problems
  • Puzzles that draw students into problems and motivate them to seek a solution

The books are organized by lessons, all of which share the same format:

  • Getting started. The first page explains the lesson and states the purpose of the activity.
  • Getting to work. The activity page engages the learner to explore the activity with a partner or in a group.
  • Accessible help. Shaded boxes offer additional information and ideas to help students move forward.
  • Practice pages. Following each activity, students have opportunities to reinforce new skills and confirm their understanding:
    • Practice gives students a chance to use their new skills.
    • Extension presents a more difficult problem or a new but related math idea.
    • Test Practice asks a number of multiple-choice questions and one open-ended question.

EMPower is part of the Adult Numeracy Center at TERC.
Developed and field tested by the Educational Research Collaborative at TERC with support from the National Science Foundation.