POCATELLO, ID — New teaching standards are being implemented nationwide, including in the Gem State with the new Idaho Core Standards. This inspired Idaho State University education Professor Cory Bennett to help Idaho teachers to better prepare students for success in math through the creation of regional math centers, which were recently approved by the state.
Bennett, an Idaho State University math education professor, and Chris Avila, mathematics coordinator for the Idaho Department of Education, worked with representatives from the University of Idaho, Lewis-Clark State College, Boise State University and the Idaho National Laboratory on a committee to improve how math is taught in Idaho schools.
Bennett and Julie Amador, assistant professor of curriculum and instruction at the University of Idaho, were awarded two grants, worth $370,000 and $386,000, to help teachers understand what the enactment of the new Idaho Core Standards might look like in the classroom.
The first grant of nearly $370,000 was to help the committee plan the infrastructure of regional math centers throughout Idaho. Schools that were good candidates were chosen to participate in the program. Regional math centers were set up throughout Idaho around Driggs, Pocatello, Coeur d”Alene, Lewiston and Kimberly.
Teachers were instructed to videotape themselves and their students. The intention was to find model illustrations of the “Eight Mathematical Practices.” The eight math practices refer to a set of values that a student should engage in when solving a math problem in order to decisively understand the concept. Video snippets of students using the prototypical practices could then be viewed by teachers throughout the region.
Bennett said teachers often want examples of in-classroom application of teaching standards. Regional math centers can provide teachers support that is both practical and accessible.
A second grant was awarded for more than $386,000. Its purpose is to fund a larger-scale implementation of the regional math centers that had been planned the previous year.
The committee, the grants and the regional math centers have come at a good time, according to Bennett. The new Idaho Core Standards are meant to be a more complete approach to the way children learn math and require new teaching methods for mathematics. Providing teachers in Idaho with regional math centers gives them a platform of support so they can effectively help students meet the new Idaho Core Standards in math.