Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Is there a suggested order for using the EMPower books?

A: Click here to learn more about the suggested sequence.

Q: I have classes that are widely multilevel. Can this work?

A: Many teachers see a wide range of levels within the group as an obstacle. Turn the range of levels to your advantage. Focus on students' representations (words, graphs, equations, sketches). This gives everyone the chance to see that answers emerge in several ways. Slowing down deepens understanding and avoids facile responses. Having calculators available can even the playing field. Implement the suggestions in Making the Lesson Easier and Making the Lesson Harder in each lesson facilitation of the Lesson Commentary sections.

Q: How do I deal with erratic attendance patterns?

A: Uneven attendance can be disruptive. Students who miss class may feel disoriented; however, the lessons spiral back to the most important concepts. When the curriculum circles back, students will have a chance to revisit concepts and get a toehold.

Q: What do I do if I run out of time, and there is no way to finish a lesson?

A: Each activity is important, but reviewing it is equally important. It is better to cut the activity short so there is time to talk with students about what they noticed. Maximize the time by selecting a student or group whose work you feel will add to the class's understanding to report their findings. Be conscious of when you are letting an activity go on too long because the energy is high. Fun is good, but be sure important learning is happening. If you like to give time in class to reviewing homework, and you want to hear from everyone in discussions, you will run out of time. Schedule a catch-up session every three or four lessons.

Q: How do I respond to comments such as "Can't we go back to the old way?"

A: Change is unsettling, especially for students who are accustomed to math classes where their job is to work silently on a worksheet solving problems by following a straightforward example. Be clear about the reasons why you have chosen to de-emphasize some of the traditional ways of teaching in favor of this approach. Ultimately, you may need to agree to some changes to accommodate students' input. Meanwhile, stick with the curriculum. Reiterate for students what they have accomplished. When there is an "Aha!" moment, point it out.

Q: My own math background is not strong. Will I be able to teach this curriculum?

A: Yes! Most teachers tend to teach the way they were taught. Adopting a different stance requires support, and the more types of support, the better. This curriculum offers support in a few ways. The teacher books for each unit list open-ended questions designed to keep the math on track. In the Lesson Commentary sections, Math Background helps teachers deepen their understanding of a concept. In addition, the Lesson in Action sections provide examples of student work with comments that illuminate the underlying mathematics.

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.