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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

History of EMPower

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 the EMPower curriculum units. Teachers from Illinois, NY, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Illinois piloted lessons.

EMPower Authors

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. Donna gets math off the page. Numeracy is the knowledge and skills required to manage and respond to the mathematical demands of diverse situations. She prompts teachers and students to solve problems that appear in everyday life (International Adult Literacy and Life Skills Survey-

Tricia Donovan

As a teacher and curriculum developer, Tricia was creative, critical, and always reflecting. She built in opportunities for students and teachers to reflect and write. 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 that feature prominently in the books. Martha believes learning happens in- and out-of-school and that the power is in leveraging experiences and prior knowledge to apply in new situations. 





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


The curriculum moves 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,
  • discover multiple ways to solve problems,
  • apply mathematics to everyday situations, and
  • see relationships between situations, graphs, tables, and equations