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Math Musings: An Adult Numeracy Blog

Will This Be on the Test? #1
by Sarah Lonberg-Lew Welcome to the first installment of our new monthly series, “Will This Be on the Test?” Each month, we’ll feature a new question similar to something adult learners might see on a high school equivalency test and a discussion of how one might go about tackling the problem conceptually. There are lots … Continue reading Will This Be on the Test? #1


Extending Mathematical Power (EMPower) was created to integrate the best of 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.


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 contextualized curriculum units. Teachers from Illinois, NY, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania

The following people shaped the EMPower series:

Mary Jane Schmitt

Promoted numeracy. She wrote, "We need to view this term numeracy not as a synonym for mathematics but as a new discipline defined as the bridge that links mathematics and the real world" (Schmitt, 2000). Unlike mathematics, numeracy does not so much lead upward in an ascending pursuit of abstraction as it moves outward toward an ever-richer engagement with life’s diverse contexts and situations. (Orrill, R. (2001). Mathematics, numeracy, and democracy. In L.A. Steen (Ed.). Mathematics and Democracy (pp xiii–xix). Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation.

Donna Curry

Has a strong workplace background. She intuitively connects number, data, algebra, and measurement and helps others see connections as well. Numeracy is the knowledge and skills required to effectively manage and respond to the mathematical demands of diverse situations. Numerate behavior is observed when people manage a situation or solve a problem in a real context; it involves responding to information about mathematical ideas that may be represented in a range of ways; it requires the activation of a range of enabling knowledge, factors, and processes. (International Adult Literacy and Life Skills Survey-

Tricia Donovan

Researched epistemological change resulting from curriculum influences. She built in opportunities for students and teachers to reflect. Tricia believed that to be numerate is more than being able to manipulate numbers, or even being able to ‘succeed’ in school or university mathematics. Numeracy is a critical awareness which builds bridges between mathematics and the real-world, with all its diversity. (Australian educator, Betty Johnston, 1994)

Martha Merson
Gathered teachers’ and students’ reactions, work, and words featured prominently in the books.


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.

The Career and College Readiness Standards informed the changes in the three revised books. Alignment of EMPower™ Series to CCR Standards


They moved away from having students memorize formulas and follow procedures. Instead students:

  • engage in activities that relate to their lives.
  • investigate concepts,
  • work collaboratively, share ideas orally and in writing, and
  • discover multiple ways to solve problems.
  • apply mathematics to everyday situations
  • see relationships between situations, graphs, tables, and equations