ABE/GED Math comprehensive curriculum

I am relatively new to teaching ABE/Math at all levels, and am trying to re-vamp my curriculum during this transition to the new GED test.  I have been finding a lot of information on incorporating manipulatives into the curriculum.  I was also introduced to the concept of the Concrete-Representational-Abstract continuum.  I would like to teach along this continuum and help my students embed math concepts on a deeper level than before.  I no longer want to simply teach the algorithm and have my students learn it by rote.

Has anyone found a good comprehensive set of curriculum around this?  I've seen a description of the EMPower Curriculum developed by the TIAN group.  Has anyone used that?   What else?  Funding new curriculum is part of the struggle, so I need to keep low costs in mind.

I'm finding bits and pieces out there, and want to create a clear progression that touches on all subjects in all levels.   What are the rest of you using/doing?


Thank you,

Sue P.


We are using the CCR standards (http://lincs.ed.gov/publications/pdf/CCRStandardsAdultEd.pdf) and coming up with curriculum that way. We follow the progression and supplement with other materials.  They give examples of the types of problems, so you know you are on the right track. www.engageNY.org is a good resource for information and lessons.  Some of the open education resources have good lessons that cover all of the of the shifts.  Glencoe.com has a good free manipulatives site, www.gcflearnfree.org (Goodwill Industries) has a free site with lessons, some videos and focuses on workplace (real-world) problems.  I'm sure some of this has come from some of the Lincs feeds that I am on.  I am signed up for about everything!  You are not alone; we are all trying to piece it together.  McGraw-Hill has a series out that is curricula for each of the new high school equivalency tests.  We have the Basics books (grade level 6-8); the Achieve books (high school) are back-ordered.  They are a good guide, too, but,of course, not cheap. 

I just now checked out the Glencoe free website that was mentioned in the post before this.

I went to the Addition/Subtraction lessons. Unfortunately, the first lesson has an "uh-oh."


On this page is the statement " 4+4=8 is a mathematical expression. "

That is not an expression. 4+4 is an expression because is does NOT have an equal sign ( = ).

4+4=8 is an equation.

Those distinctions are made in Algebra, which is where students studying for the high school equivalency exams are supposed to be. I have not tried the new GED test or practice test, but I imagine these more rigorous tests would make the correct mathematical distinction between equations and expressions.

If you want some interactives for math, try the National Library of Virtual Manipulatives.  http://nlvm.usu.edu/

Since their grant has run out, they have started charging for their newer tools. The old ones (and there are many good ones) are still free.

Dorothea Steinke


Lafayette, CO

Hi Sue,

I have used the EMPower curriculum. I find it to be pretty good at bringing out the concepts (often by having the students work them out), at presenting different ways of thinking about math, and at connecting math to the real world. It's very important that your students have pretty consitstant attendance,  since the lessons build on each other. I think that attendance issues might be one reason that I found that I needed to supplement some of the lessons with extra practice. I'd recommend this curriculum if you want to build good number sense in your students and are not afraid to spend some extra time to do it properly. I especially like the algebra book, especially since the new GED test puts a lot of emphasis on the relationships between graphs, tables, and equations.


I would also like to comment on the EMpower math series. At my school, we have adopted most of the books in the series and have found student retention to improve.  For the GED student, we are offering 6 week modules where students attend classes twice a week. In each of the 6 week modules we use one of the books from EMpower (Algebra, Geometry, proportional reasoning, or Data).  What we found was students stayed the entire 6 weeks, were more engaged and remembered more of what they learned.  Given that in the past our 15 week GED course had most of the students dropping out early, this was a big improvement. We also piloted their revised books on fractions and their operations. This new book clearly develops conceptually the four operations with fractions and addresses the Career and College readiness standards in Level B and C that cover understanding fractions and fraction operations.  Since the College and Career Readiness Standards emphasize developing conceptual understanding, procedural fluency and rigor, I feel the EMpower series to be the best at doing this. Most adult education math books jump too quickly to procedural skills without developing the understanding behind it.


First, I found your comments very beneficial.  My staff and I are working on this very issue and especially when you can get results of both attendance and comprehension.  We have the EMpower book series, but I'm interested in what the title of the revised books are that you have.  Could your respond with the titles?  Thanks in advance for your help.


I will also echo what has been said about the EMPower series.  They have been valuable tools as part if the LINCS Adult Numeracy Instruction (ANI) trainings for teachers.  But, also really engage adult learners in the classroom.


Hi Betty and All,

The new lessons and updated materials that Pam mentioned piloting extend the conceptual development of fraction equivalence and operations with fractions and decimals. The materials expand on EMPower's books Everyday Numbers, Using Benchmarks, and Split It Up, but are not available yet. We're currently exploring some options for publishing them. Check empower.terc.edu in next week or two. We at TERC's Adult Numeracy Center will be posting a sampler of three lessons to follow the lessons in Using Benchmarks. The sampler will be available for free download. Thanks for your interest!


I will check this out.  Also, I'll be attending the COABE pre-conference workshop on Adult Numeracy.  Will you and your colleagues be there, and does anyone know if there will be copies of the EMpower series to review at the COABE conference?


The last I heard, we'll have a set of books at the pre-conference and there will definitely be books at the McGraw Hill booth during the conference. I have also heard that teachers can request examination copies from McGraw-Hill. 

For information on cost, see: https://www.mheonline.com/program/view/6/16/2435/0076620921/

See you in Pittsburgh.





Hi Pam,

I'm curious to hear more about how you decide which students should be in a given class. Do you use a placement test? I know that the books are flexible as far as sequencing, but there are definitely some that require more prior knowledge from the students.


Hi Rachel,

Yes we do use  placement exams. First their CASAS reading or math score must be  at least 221 or if they have taken other classes using the EMpower Number Sense or Benchmark Fractions, we might let them take the class based on the instructor's recommendation. We also interview each student with some math problems to do. We observe their strategies, etc to see if they would be able to handle the books used.

Thanks, Pam. That's helpful. I've found that students scores on tests like the CASAS or the TABE are good for getting a broad idea of a student's skills, but I like the idea of doing a math interview--I'm sure it tells you a lot more about what the student actually understands.

We use the Empower series -- I use the Everyday Number Sense with people who "hate math" and don't have fractions -- the number line exercises are great to help people begin to visualize relationships among numbers.  The initial assessment also helps uncover some fundamental issues with very basic building blocks.  It is illuminating to see how people draw pictures for the word problems.  The mental math exercises help me identify what kind of a math system the adult is using.  Most people have some form of a system that they use to shop with -- however, their internal rules may differ from the formal rules.  It is "empowering" for adults -- who have always believed that they were terrible at math -- to uncover that they have been inventive enough to create a system of their own -- it becomes much easier to teach the more formal rules when we both understand their personal system.  I love the algebra books -- they really help people overcome the fear of algebra -- i love many of the problems -- as they use actual real life problems that can occur in a professional setting -- designing and purchasing a computer network for a non-profit with a budget -- I love the teacher notes -- they are great for teachers (like myself) who come from a writing background, rather than a math background -- the group problems do require some setup that may require props -- and I wish that the answers were in the book, rather than in the teacher's manual -- but the series has really helped me become a better teacher.

For most procedural-style books, I like the answers in the back of the student book so that students can check on their progress themselves.  My answer to what I like in an EMPower book is different.  I like the student books the way they are – no answers.  Many of the problems are designed for conceptual understanding and help build persistence.  The book is not meant for individual study; some students would be tempted to take a short-cut and check the back of the book too quickly.

What I would like to see in newer versions would be the style teacher book where a small replica of the student page is on the same page as the teacher notes that go with it.  It would shorten the learning curve for me using it.  I wouldn’t pick up just the teacher book and have trouble picturing what was in it , or be tempted to pick up just the student book and count on remembering discussion questions from the teacher book.

I don't have an on-line opinion at this time.

This is adult ed and since I will not be correcting the work for grades, I like the answers to be in the student text so they can do some problems and then check their answers.  If they do a whole page, I have to correct the work (which takes time I don't have) and then if I find that they did them all (or even mostly) wrong, they not only have to learn to do the problems the correct way, but they have to UN-LEARN the wrong way.... This is WAY too hard.  I actually liked that the old S-V text had answers and good explanations for the students to use.  I always told my students (math or any other subject) do a few and check them and even if their answer was correct, READ the book's explanation as it reinforced their correct answer or would help them make corrections for that problem, fixing the mistake and then being able to correctly do the rest of the problems. Time wasn't spent correcting papers in class and we could move on.  (Sometimes there would be issues and re-teaching would be necessary.) Of course if a student wanted to just circle all the right answers by looking at the answers and tell me they got them all right, that was a whole other can of worms, and those students either didn't stick around very long, or they started being more honest with themselves and then began to make gains.  Especially since these are adult students, they must take responsibility for their learning and having answers for them to use is a tool that I find very helpful!  

Our program is still struggling to find new texts, but I absolutely want ones that have answers and explanations in the student text.  


Gail,  I am developing a class that will primarily use the Number Sense book to help students feel better about that so your comments are affirming.  Could you share a little more about how your class is structured? Do you select which lessons/books to use based on the population you happen to have or do you organize students by level and then go from there?  What do you use in order to place students and/or determine students' levels/abilities?  Do you only use the algebra book Seeking Patterns and Building Rules?

I am working toward building a math program around the Empower Series so any information/advice/thoughts you could share would be very helpful.  Thank you.

Thanks, Everyone, for your comments.  This is very helpful.  Can anyone speak to the affordability/cost of EmPower?  I'm very intrigued by it.  I especially like the idea that a 6-week/2-day class schedule can yield results (because that's pretty much our structure, right now.)  Otherwise, I feel like we're endlessly stuck on fractions.

Pricing can be found here:  https://www.mheonline.com/program/view/6/16/2435/0076620921/Title_Search

In my opinion, they are very affordable.  Permission is given to copy student books for students if that is more affordable than purchasing each student a copy.  I would do one or the other rather than expect students to write on separate paper.

Hello All!

I didn't comment for a long time because I was enjoying the conversation but in the program that I work we utilize the EMPOWER Curriculum - we do supplement for higher-level concepts (systems of equations, factoring, etc.)  Our learners LOVE this curriculum, their comments range from "Why didn't anyone teach me math like this before" to "WOW, I CAN do math!" - which as an instructor is GREAT feedback.  I believe the hardest transition was accepting that we weren't going to teach everything from computations to data to geometry, to algebra in the finite time we have our learners.  We narrowed our focus and intensify the instruction, the result was bigger educational gains!  We also liked that the EMPOWER books were very reasonably priced.  I am looking forward to the updates and any new materials that will be coming in the future!