Creating engaging mathematics learning experiences has long been a focus of TERC’s work. In 2000, TERC widened its reach to include adult math learners with a major grant from the National Science Foundation to fund the EMPower (Extending Mathematical Power) project. EMPower provided the springboard for a constellation of professional development and curricular materials development projects.In addition to multi-faceted research, curriculum, and professional development work supported by the National Science Foundation, we have worked with individual states, districts, and networks — customizing products and professional development to meet authentic needs.

Current Projects

SABES Mathematics and Adult Numeracy Curriculum & Instruction PD Center

In 2014, the Adult Numeracy Center at TERC was chosen to be the new SABES Mathematics and Adult Numeracy Curriculum & Instruction PD Center. The Center serves education practitioners and administrators in Massachusetts by offering math professional development on a variety of topics in both face to face and online formats. Our portfolio of offerings cover a range of topics including math content, teaching strategies, teaching math with ESOL and LD populations, research on adult numeracy learning, the College and Career Readiness Standards for Mathematics, and principles of "backwards design".  Funder: Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Website:

Adults Reaching Algebra Readiness (AR)2

Adults Reaching Algebra Readiness, or (AR)2, is a research-based professional development series building upon the content presented in the ANI (Adult Numeracy lnstruction) professional development program. During the sessions, teachers build on their own conceptual understanding of algebraic topics while learning new ways to teach for understanding. Participants meet over the course of three 2 day face-to-face sessions and participate in support activities between each session. This PD series was designed to make direct connections to the Career and College Readiness Standards. For more details on session content and the pedagogy behind the training, please contact


The EMPower program is a series of 7 titles that fills the tremendous need for a math and numeracy program for adult basic education. EMPower helps adults develop mathematical proficiency to more effectively engage with the world, whether that be at work, at home as parents and caregivers, in the community, or as they seek high school credentials and further education. Funder: National Science Foundation, Grant No. ESI-9911410. Website:

Our learners leave our program wondering WHY no one told them about how to do math this way...they really enjoy it and it has been proved to be effective.

(Instructor, Cowley College Adult Education Program, Kansas)

I am definitely more open to student input and explanations of solutions for word problems. I also have developed trust in the EMPower series because of the exercises I experienced in the ANI (Adult Numeracy Instruction) workshops. Another teacher and I have used the exercises with students preparing for the high school equivalency test and have observed that test scores went up on OPT (official GED practice test) tests administered after the exercises. We concluded that students had increased understanding of math concepts enough to improve scores.

EMPower™ Workshops

EMPower Professional Development Workshops are an opportunity for adult numeracy teachers interested in maximizing the quality of mathematics instruction for adults and out of school youth. EMPower workshops make math accessible to teachers at all levels of “math comfort”--from the skittish to the confident. Together, teachers expand their ideas of what it means to do math, focusing on reasoning, communication, and problem solving (in adult contexts) with a variety of approaches and strategies, not just rote memorization of procedures.

EMPower workshops are available for state- or program-based groups of 20 or more participants. TERC has previously delivered workshops for the Arizona Department of Education, Kentucky Adult Education, Kansas Board of Regents, Maine Department of Education, NYC Office of Adult and Continuing Education, the California Council for Adult Education, and others. Contact for more details.

Interpreters and Scientists Working On Our Parks (iSWOOP)

iSWOOP is a model program to build visitors’ understanding of science at National Parks. This project is meant to advance STEM learning among national park visitors. iSWOOP brings together educators, scientists, and National Park Service (NPS) interpreters to incorporate site-based science into programs for the public. iSWOOP will support the NPS in fulfilling its educational vision by enhancing interpreter-visitor interactions in four ways, by providing interpreters with:

  • Direct contact with scientists doing research in the park in an interactive format;
  • Field-based experiences, increasing their awareness of scientific park-based research;
  • Compelling visual data and graphs which can function as a jumping off point for STEM learning;
  • Ongoing opportunities to reflect on and then improve their interactions with visitors, increasing their strategies for leveraging visitors’ questions for active inquiry.

Funder: National Science Foundation. Click to visit the iSWOOP website. 

Other Projects

Click each project title for details.

Adult Numeracy Instruction (ANI) Professional Development

TERC partnered with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) to implement a nationwide, revised version of a year-long adult numeracy professional development model for practitioners. This initiative builds on TERC’s TIAN project and the successful pilot of Adult Numeracy Instruction - PD created by the University of Tennessee, MPR Associates, Rutgers University, and TERC. To date, TERC’s Adult Numeracy Center staff has led ANI institutes in CT, IN, WI, and mentored a cadre of national trainers. Funder: OCTAE

ANI Professional Development is currently managed by LINCS. Please visit their site for more details.

MA ACLS Numeracy Study Circle

TERC’s Adult Numeracy Center piloted a "study circle" for the Massachusetts' Adult and Community Learning Services (ACLS) staff. Modeled after a similar study circle for reading skills produced by the National Center for the Study of Adult Learning and Literacy (NCSALL), the study circle is intended to ground administrators and others in research in quantitative literacy and math education for adults. Funder: Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education

Learning Pathways Pilot

The Adult Numeracy Center is revising EMPower-based lessons on number and operation sense. The revised lessons are aligned to the GED Math Assessment targets for Quantitative Reasoning 1 and 2 and to the Common Core Mathematical Practices. Teachers from New York City's District 79 GED program and the Office of Adult and Continuing Education participated in the pilot in 2012-2013. Funder: The Fund for Public Schools


Building off the content and pedagogy of the EMPower adult numeracy curriculum, a cadre of teachers and TERC educators or staff will develop, deliver, and evaluate three targeted mini-lessons delivered online to build conceptual understanding of key math topics for students with math skills significantly below grade level (aligned to 8th grade and below CCSS). Video of students explaining their thinking and connections to everyday life, annotated student work samples, and recommendations for content-aligned online resources will supplement the mini-lessons. Funder: Nellie Mae Foundation

Statistics for Action (SfA)

Statistics for Action (SfA) has developed free, math-rich materials that enable community members to interpret environmental test results, make informed decisions based on data, and use numbers to convincingly communicate concerns to officials and neighbors. Funder: National Science Foundation, Grant No. DRL-0812954. Website:

TIAN (Teachers Investigating Adult Numeracy)

The mathematics test of the GED has the lowest passing rate of the five tests, one indication of the need for professional development for pre-GED and GED teachers that builds their understanding and instructional abilities in mathematics. TERC, in partnership with the Center for Literacy Studies at the University of Tennessee, has developed, piloted and field-tested TIAN, an approach to standards-based mathematics in-service professional development, using each state's standards and the EMPower program. TIAN uses teacher inquiry and reflective learning to engage teachers in learning how to design and implement effective mathematics instructional approaches for algebra and data analysis. The TIAN approach builds on the team's groundbreaking work in standards and curricular materials development in adult mathematics education and in collaborative professional development. Key components of the year-long model include an initial institute on data, a second institute on algebra, classroom investigations, regional teacher meetings between institutes, website support, and a final institute. TIAN was piloted and field-tested with math teachers in six states whose adult students have math skills at the ABE, pre-GED, and GED levels. Funder: National Science Foundation, Grant No. ESI-0455610. Website: