Extending Mathematical Power (EMPower) was created to integrate current K-12 mathematics education reform into the field of education for adults and out-of-school youth. EMPower was designed especially for those students who return for a second chance at education by enrolling in adult basic education programs, high school equivalency programs, and developmental programs at community colleges. However, the curriculum is appropriate for a variety of other settings as well, such as high schools, workplaces, and parent and paraprofessional education programs. EMPower builds interest and competency in mathematical problem solving and communication.
Over the course of four years (2000-2004), a collaboration of teachers and researchers with expertise in adult numeracy education and K-12 mathematics reform developed and piloted eight contextualized curriculum units. These units are organized around four central topics: number and operation sense; patterns, functions, and relations; geometry and measurement; and data and graphs. The EMPower program serves as a model for a cohesive mathematics curriculum that offers content consistent with the Principles and Standards for School Mathematics (NCTM, 2000), as well as frameworks that are adult-focused, such as the Equipped for the Future Content Standards (Stein, 2000), the Massachusetts ABE Curriculum Frameworks for Mathematics and Numeracy (Massachusetts Department of Education, 2005), and the Adult Numeracy Network's Framework for Adult Numeracy Standards (Curry, Schmitt, & Waldron, 1995). The curriculum fosters a pedagogy of learning for understanding; it embeds teacher support and is transformative, yet realistic, for multilevel classrooms.
EMPower challenges students and teachers to consistently extend their ideas of what it means to do math. The curriculum focuses on mathematical reasoning, communication, and problem solving with a variety of approaches and strategies, not just rote memorization and symbol manipulation. The program fosters a learning community in which students are encouraged to expand their understanding of mathematics through open-ended investigations, working collaboratively, sharing ideas, and discovering multiple ways for solving problems. The goal of EMPower is to help people build experience managing the mathematical demands of various life situations, such as finances and commerce, interpretation of news stories, and leisure activities, and to connect those experiences to mathematical principles.