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Frequently Asked Questions

 

Q: My students don’t spend a lot of time in my classroom. Is this the best use of instructional time if their goal is to “get in and get out” as quickly as possible?

Q: Is there an ideal level for the EMPower series?

Q: I have classes that are widely multi-level. Can this work?

Q: Will I hear comments such as “Can’t we go back to the old way”? How do I respond?

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Q: My students don’t spend a lot of time in my classroom. Is this the best use of instructional time if their goal is to “get in and get out” as quickly as possible? Shouldn’t I spend whatever time they have on a program designed to prepare them for college placement or high school equivalency tests?

A: The National Center for Education and the Economy launched an intense study of the mathematics students need to be college and career ready. They determined that middle school math is vital for success in nine different programs offered at community colleges. They based their assessment on texts and exams from programs including nursing, accounting, and criminal justice. Though middle school math—fractions, decimals, percents, ratio, and proportion—are taught, they are not learned well. Teaching these concepts so that learners have a true foundation rather than a shaky, passing familiarity with a number of topics and procedures will enable students to meet their long-term goals.


Q: Is there an ideal level for the EMPower series?

A: The EMPower Student Book pages include situations and instructions that require some proficiency in written English. Students who test at National Reporting System (NRS) low and high intermediate levels or grades 4-7 grade level equivalency in mathematics are the best candidates for EMPower. Such students may have some familiarity with basic operations and know some number facts but might be unable to retain some basic operations and know some number facts but might be unable to retain some procedures or perform them accurately or reliably.

Students at a higher level can benefit from EMPower if they have trouble getting started on a problem on their own, or if they are anxious and shut down when they see equations that look complicated. EMPower sets them up to be more independent, to test multiple solution paths, and to feel more confident in being flexible with numbers.

 

Q: I have classes that are widely multi-level. Can this work?

A: In a classroom with a wide range of levels, focus on students’ representations and reasoning. 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. Choose lessons like Is That You, Mona Lisa? or Countries in Our Closets that have activities with a hands-on component.

Q: Will I hear comments such as “Can’t we go back to the old way”? How do I respond?

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, when there is an “Aha!” moment, point it out. If administrators question your approach, remind them that students typically score lowest on math compared to other subjects and that doing more of the same thing when students have failed in the past doesn't make sense. New approaches are needed to surface misunderstandings.