Broward County Public Schools
EMF
An Online Middle School Curriculum
for Mathematically Talented Minds

Broward County Public Schools, Florida (BCPS), invites its brightest students to participate in the most advanced secondary school mathematics curriculum available today!

Elements of Mathematics: Foundations (EMF) is an online curriculum in modern mathematics created by the Institute for Mathematics & Computer Science (IMACS) specifically for mathematically talented students.

Qualifying BCPS students may take EMF as their full-time math curriculum while in middle school. Successful EMF 8th-graders earn high school credits in Algebra 1, Algebra 2, Geometry and Precalculus, are well prepared for AP Calculus in 9th grade, and qualify for dual-enrollment mathematics classes with the University of Florida.

To qualify for the BCPS-EMF program:

  • students must plan to enroll in a Broward County public school (students attending charter or private schools are not eligible for the BCPS-EMF program);
  • students and parents sign a form acknowledging that students must maintain high grades and stay on schedule, and allowing the School Board of Broward County to share certain information allowing IMACS to execute the BCPS-EMF program; and
  • students complete the first EMF module prior to August 1, 2019 with a grade of 90% or better.

To proceed parents and students follow three steps:

  1. watch the introductory videos;
  2. carefully read the list of Frequently Asked Questions; and
  3. use your Student ID to complete an application.

Step 1

Watch the following videos:

Broward County Public Schools Dan Gohl (Chief Academic Officer) and Guy Barmoha (Director Secondary Learning) describe the county's EMF Program:

This video provides a first-look introduction to the Broward County Public Schools EMF program:

This video describes the individual EMF modules in more detail:

More information on the EMF program, including a list of modules, may be found on the Elements of Mathematics: Foundations website (but note that EMF is FREE to qualified BCPS students). Learn more about some of the Broward County Public School students who have graduated from the EMF program here: EMF-graduates.pdf.

Step 2

Read this FAQ (click on a question to view the answer):

Getting In

  • How does a student qualify for BCPS-EMF?

    A student is invited to enroll based on their 4th grade Math and Reading FSA scores, and must complete the first EMF module, Operational Systems, prior to a date (approximately one month prior to the start of the academic year) specified by BCPS, with a grade of 90% or better.

    Note that EMF is designed to be a self-study program in which students learn by closely reading the online text and carefully completing the online exercises. Prospective students should be reading at above grade level and be ready to learn new concepts through reading. Completing the Operational Systems module is an excellent way to gauge whether a student is ready for EMF's self-study approach.

  • What is the first EMF module about?

    It introduces elementary group theory, modular arithmetic and non-numeric operations.

  • When should my child start the first EMF module?

    Data shows that, on average, students who study the first EMF module early in the summer obtain higher grades than those who start later. Students who finish the first module with a grade of 90% or better and who elect EMF as their full-time mathematics class will be enrolled into the second EMF module. These students should attempt to finish the second module and as much of the third module as possible in order to start the school year ahead of schedule.

  • Are students allowed to get help on the first module while trying to qualify for BCPS-EMF?

    A student attempting to qualify for BCPS-EMF through his or her score on Operational Systems is limited to three Help Forum posts during that module. Experience indicates that EMF tends to be a poor fit for those who need more help than this in the first module. Students who qualify to join the BCPS-EMF program and decide to continue will have full access to the Help Forum beginning with the second module. Note that in all modules including Operational Systems, students will be able to review prior Help Forum exchanges by clicking on the green question mark icon [?] when it appears with an exercise.

  • How long will it take to complete the first EMF module?

    Students who have completed the first EMF module with an average of at least 90% have taken as little as 10 hours. But 20–25 hours is the norm. There is no correlation between the time taken and the final grade, nor between the time taken and success in EMF. However, the final grade is a very strong indicator of future success in the program. Therefore, students are encouraged to take as much time as they feel they need in order to completely master the covered material.

  • After I complete the first module — what then?

    If you score 90% or better on the first EMF module then you will receive an email explaining how you may elect BCPS-EMF as your full-time mathematics curriculum. If you choose to elect the BCPS-EMF program then you will immediately be enrolled into the second EMF module. Students should attempt to finish the second module and as much of the third module as possible in order to start the school year ahead of schedule.

  • I elected to take BCPS-EMF as my full-time math program — can I change my mind?

    Yes. You may rejoin your GEM class at any time, both prior to the start of 6th grade and at any time during the three years of middle school. EMF students do not experience difficulties in adjusting to the GEM curriculum, and find that the foundational mathematics learned in EMF provides an invaluable tool in future mathematics classes. To rejoin your GEM class, simply inform your teacher or the district's EMF coordinator.

Getting Help

  • There's no teacher! What should my child do if he or she needs help understanding the material?

    Parents and students should also note that the EMF program does not provide tutors. If you feel that your child needs a tutor to complete the EMF coursework, then EMF may not be the right program for him or her.

    All the information students need to understand and answer exercises is contained in the pages of the relevant section. Usually, re-reading the section several times will overcome any misunderstandings.

    When students are logged into the EMF site they may access the Help Forum, in which students are encouraged to post well-thought-out questions to be discussed and answered by highly-advanced students. Questions that are not answered satisfactorily are filtered through to experienced instructors and mathematicians who respond through the Help Forum.

    Note that the Help Forum is not designed or intended to substitute as a teacher. The Help Forum is provided to answer students' specific and focused questions; however, the main responsibility for learning the material through close reading belongs to each EMF student.

    For each exercise, students may read previously posted Help Forum questions and answers about that exercise by clicking on the green question mark button that appears with that exercise.

    To use the Help Forum, students must obey strict rules, including rules prohibiting the request or provision of answers and the use of inappropriate language. Students who do not obey these rules will be prohibited from accessing the Help Forum and will not be permitted to continue in the EMF program.

    (It is worth pointing out that, historically, 85% of help requests from students taking the first EMF module generate responses that encourage the student to solve the issue themselves by either re-reading the section or by using the index button, and almost invariably the student overcomes the issue by following this advice.)

  • Why do you say that it's not good to help your child with the EMF curriculum? What if you know mathematics and you want to help?

    A rare selection of parents possess the characteristics that it takes to effectively help their EMF student, namely university-level training in abstract mathematics and the ability to guide young people while still allowing them to experience productive struggle. Even for such individuals, refraining from helping allows your child to develop strong independent study habits that he or she will certainly benefit from in high school and at university.

    Parents' most important role is to provide a supportive environment in which students can study without interruption or distraction, and where necessary to help with organization and time-management.

  • Why doesn't EMF have more practice problems?

    EMF was designed for talented students who are motivated to explore mathematics deeply and who typically master calculation with little repetition. Given that computers long ago outpaced the computational abilitites of humans, EMF focuses instead on teaching the analytical reasoning and creative thinking skills needed to solve more complex problems.

    That being said, earlier EMF modules include practice problems for students who want them. Practice exercises are always optional, and some graded computational exercises become optional for students whose grades are high enough.

    Earlier EMF modules also include review quizzes that help students identify which topics they should study further before attempting the subsequent tests. Finally, EMF Supplements in Pre-Algebra, Algebra 1, Algebra 2, Geometry and Precalculus provide practice solving traditional math problems in advance of standardized tests.

  • Are students allowed to use calculators and graphing tools such as those available online?

    EMF provides an integrated scientific calculator and graphing tools that students may use in completing their EMF coursework. While there are sophisticated tools available online, BCPS-EMF students are limited in how they may use these external tools. Students may use the external sites' tools as investigative and research tools, and to check answers arrived at through their own thinking, but are prohibited from using these tools to generate answers directly. Use of external tools for any purpose on EMF tests is strictly prohibited.

    The use of external tools to calculate answers in earlier EMF modules is self-defeating. Later modules focus on proofs for which there are no online tools. Success in the proof-based modules is possible only if a student has developed strong mathematical intuition by solving problems using their own brainpower. There simply is no substitute for the experience gained by figuring things out for yourself.

  • What should my child do if he or she is having technical difficulties with an EMF module?

    Students should report the issue by clicking the "Technical Support" button in the Help Forum.

Grades

  • How are EMF grades calculated?

    Each module contains several units, each of which is either an assignment (containing exercises and review problems), or a test. Raw point scores are then adjusted depending on the unit's level of difficulty. A grade is then calculated as a weighted average of the assignments (60% weight) and tests (40% weight). This is the EMF course grade. Students must maintain EMF course grades of 80% or better. (Since EMF modules typically contain between eight and ten assignments, but only one or two tests, it is vital that students prepare well for tests in order to obtain a high EMF course grade.)

  • Are the EMF grades used as the basis for the students' school (Pinnacle) grades?

    Yes. Students enrolled in the first year will receive grades for their coursework as long as they are on schedule. A student's official quarterly grade is calculated using the EMF assignment and test grades for coursework scheduled for completion during the quarter. These grades are curved upwards to reflect the fact that EMF modules are more challenging and demanding than the regular GEM course.

    Provided they maintain the minimum EMF course grades and are on schedule, students enrolled in years two and three of EMF will receive grades for Algebra 2 Honors and Pre Calculus Honors based on the EMF coursework, midterm exam, Discussion Based Assessments (DBAs) with a teacher of record, and a final exam. Midterms and finals cannot be waived for these courses.

    Parents should not consider EMF for their child's official BCPS middle school math program unless their child plans to take advanced math courses during high school.

  • How will parents know how their child is doing in the program?

    A progress report is emailed to EMF parents each Monday morning showing the EMF course grade for the student's current module. A real-time report card is available at any time by using your child's login and choosing "My grades" from the menu. Report cards also detail how far the student is ahead (or behind) schedule, the next five upcoming weekly benchmarks, and a summary of the student's recent Help Forum activity. Students are advised to try to stay at least two weeks ahead of schedule in order to allow for unforeseen interruptions in progress.

  • Does a student need to meet certain standards to remain in the program?

    Yes. To remain in the program, students must maintain EMF course grades of 80% or better and be no more than 14 days behind schedule. If either criterion is breached, the student receives a warning that they have to redo assignments to raise their EMF grade to 80% or better and/or catch up to the schedule. If they are not able to remedy the situation in 14 days, they are encouraged to transfer out of the program. Exceptions for unique situations will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

  • Some students insist on getting everything correct. Are there do-overs in EMF?

    Yes and No. Certain exercises in EMF allow a student one, and only one, do-over if the student's initial answers would receive a score below 50%. The student is given a warning and encouraged to carefully rethink his or her answers.

    With regard to EMF tests, all students must obtain a raw score of at least 60% on a test in order to pass that test. If a student does not pass a test, he or she is required to retake that test, and the maximum curved grade on that test is capped at 80%.

    A student learns as much, if not more, from submitting an imperfect answer and then carefully reading the answer key as he or she does by submitting the correct answer.

Schedule and Pacing

  • When are the 18 EMF modules scheduled for completion?

    EMF10 and EMF15 are scheduled over summer vacations. Students may start upon completion of the preceding module, and students may also complete the summer requirements before summer vacation begins:

    • 6th grade:
      • Prior summer: EMF01 (EMF02 optional)
      • School year: EMF02-EMF09
    • 7th grade:
      • Prior summer: EMF10 (EMF11 optional)
      • School year: EMF11-EMF14 (Algebra 1 EOC and Algebra 2 Final Exams)
    • 8th grade:
      • Prior summer: EMF15 (EMF16 optional)
      • School year: EMF16-EMF18 (Geometry EOC and Precalculus Final Exams)
  • Do students have to work on EMF at specific dates and times?

    Students will work on EMF during their regular mathematics lesson. However, as long as a student is enrolled in an EMF module, he or she will be able to work on that module whenever he or she has internet access on a laptop, desktop or tablet computer.

  • What is the appropriate pace for working through an EMF module?

    BCPS-EMF students are provided with a minimum benchmark schedule. However, within this framework each student must find the pace that best suits him or her.

    The appropriate pace varies considerably from student to student. It is best not to go too many days without completing some EMF coursework. A student needs to keep the material fresh in his or her mind since EMF courses move along steadily with little to no repetition.

    In addition to his or her daily mathematics lesson, a BCPS-EMF student will need to work on EMF after school, on weekends and during holidays. Many EMF students work well ahead of schedule, but this should not be confused with working faster. Proceeding too quickly through EMF can be detrimental to a student's long term success in the program. Students should bear in mind that there is no prize for finishing first, but significant rewards for those whose meticulousness and dedication leads to a deep and lasting understanding.

    Students who take the time to read and re-read EMF material and to work through the problems slowly and carefully do much better. Students who are used to succeeding in regular school math despite jumping from exercise to exercise and ignoring or speed-reading the intervening text will quickly discover that the same approach will not work in EMF. Students are also expected to take a long time puzzling through the more difficult problems, often by putting pencil to paper, and without giving up too quickly. In other words, EMF rewards patience and persistence.

  • Does a student have to take the modules in order, or can some modules be skipped or taken out of order?

    The EMF modules must be completed in order and without skipping. Furthermore, all exercises within a module must be completed in order and without skipping. The program is designed to build an intuitive foundation for mathematics through carefully planned steps.

  • During winter and spring break, will my child's EMF pacing schedule "freeze", or should my child continue to work on EMF over the break?

    EMF does not freeze the pacing schedule over school vacations, including winter or spring break.

    If your child is well ahead of schedule, then he or she probably doesn't need to worry about falling behind if you need them to pause during a vacation. If your child is just about on schedule, then he or she should consider putting in extra time after school or on weekends before the break so that there is no need to rush later on. Regardless of where your child is in the schedule, it would be wise for him or her to put in some regular work on EMF during vacations to keep the material fresh in the mind.

  • Why does my child's number of days ahead or behind schedule sometimes change more than expected?

    EMF calculates the days-ahead/behind data using Universal Coordinated Time (UTC). Because the date boundaries of UTC may differ from yours by many hours, the days-ahead/behind count may appear to jump forwards (or backgrounds) depending on which time zone you are in, whether Daylight Saving Time is in effect in your time zone, and on the time of day that you make the inquiry.

    This is just one of the reasons why EMF students are strongly discouraged from using the daily benchmarks to schedule completion targets. Students will find it more efficacious to organize their time based on the weekly benchmarks that are enumerated in the students' online report cards.

  • Should you work on EMF if you have 15 minutes to spare?

    Probably not. Success with the EMF curriculum requires longer stretches of deep focus and concentration. It would be better to use those 15 minutes to help free up a longer block of time later.

Miscellaneous

  • What is the BCPS-EMF program retention rate?

    The retention rates as of March 2019 are as follows:

    • Year 2018-2019 – Enrolled: 91, Current: 71
    • Year 2017-2018 – Enrolled: 98, Current: 68
    • Year 2016-2017 – Enrolled: 61, Current: 43
    • Year 2015-2016 – Enrolled: 43, Graduated: 34
  • How many students will be in the BCPS-EMF program at my school?

    This number is currently undetermined since it will depend on how many students complete the required summer work with a grade of 90% or better and then also decide to continue with the program in the fall.

  • How will the BCPS-EMF students be able to concentrate if the classroom teacher and the rest of the class are discussing different curriculum in the same room? Won't that be distracting?

    Some schools have enough BCPS-EMF students to form a separate class. BCPS will work with individual cases to make the best possible provision for every student, bearing in mind constraints that individual schools may have. Parents are encouraged to provide their child with headphones to listen to EMF videos while in class.

  • Does the BCPS-EMF program replace my child's middle school math program?

    Yes. Your child will study the EMF program during the time allotted for his or her mathematics education.

    Parents should not consider EMF for their child's official BCPS middle school math program unless their child plans to take advanced math courses during high school.

  • Is EMF algebra the same as the algebra taught in schools and in other online courses?

    No. EMF teaches what mathematicians call "abstract algebra". The algebra taught in high school and in other online courses is a special case of abstract algebra usually referred to by mathematicians as "elementary algebra". Students who successfully complete EMF will earn high school credit in Algebra 1 and Algebra 2. But they will also be ready to take junior-level college algebra courses.

  • Will IMACS provide any kind of documentation to show that my child has completed a module?

    When students complete an EMF module, parents receive an email containing links to a Student Transcript and Completion Certificate.

  • What if my child successfully completes the program?

    He or she will have high school credits in Algebra 1, Algebra 2, Geometry and Precalculus, and will be ready to take Calculus in 9th grade through an Advanced Placement class in high school or through the University of Florida as a dual-enrolled student. He or she will also be ready to take junior-level college courses in subjects including Discrete Mathematics and Linear and Abstract Algebra. For information about existing EMF graduates, see EMF-graduates.pdf.

    Parents should not consider EMF for their child's official BCPS middle school math program unless their child plans to take advanced math courses during high school.

  • What technology do students need?

    EMF is supported on the free Chrome and Firefox browsers. In addition to laptops and desktops, EMF is compatible with iPads, Android tablets, and touchscreen computers. However, some features are easier to use with a mouse or other pointing device. EMF is not compatible with smartphones. Headphones are highly recommended.

Step 3

Make your application. Completing this application does not commit you to choosing EMF as your full-time mathematics curriculum. After applying, you will receive by email a link to a consent form which you must sign digitally. Once the consent is signed, you will be sent login information which you may use to begin the EMF first module.
For Additional Resources, visit the BCPS Secondary Learning Department.
EMF