Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Idaho Math Initiative Presentation to House Education Committee

This morning the House Education Committee heard presentations on the Idaho Math Initiative and Apangea Math from Cindy Johnstone, Math Coordinator for the State Department of Education; Jonathan Brendefur, Boise State University; and Glen Zollman, Apangea.

The Math Initiative is a three-prong approach to increasing student achievement in math across Idaho: student achievement, teacher education, and public awareness.  Johnstone began by sharing anecdotes about teachers who can’t sleep at night because they are so excited about what’s happening with math in their classrooms and students won’t leave the classroom for recess because they are engaged in problem solving. 

Brendefur shared information about the Mathematical Thinking for Instruction (MTI) course with the committee.  The MTI Course is a three-credit course that gives Idaho teachers and administrators best practices and teaching strategies to help students excel in math.  The course has generated a lot of excitement among teachers about how they teach math.  Brendefur shared that he encourages teachers to start with contextual problems to engage students and that problem solving is about the process, not necessarily the final answer.  There’s often more than one right way to solve a math problem.

Finally, Zollman shared data surrounding Apangea, the online math intervention tool, with the committee.  During the first five months of this school year, more students have used Apangea than the total number of students that used Apangea all last year.  Currently 85 of Idaho’s 115 school districts are actively using Apangea, and the students are enjoying it so much they’re using Apangea at home on evenings and weekends.  In fact, Idaho students have logged 28,000 hours at home in the last 5 months.  By the end of the year, they are expected to have spent the equivalent of 39 years working on math outside of school time.  The impact is obvious.  Students who have not solved problems on Apangea show a 3.1% average ISAT score improvement, but students who have solved 100 problems or more on Apangea, show an average improvement on ISATs of 5.5%.

“When I look at the success we are having with the Math Initiative, I realize it’s because of our comprehensive plan,” Johnstone said.  “It’s not just about Apangea or just about the MTI class or just about an assessment.  All of the programs are working together for one goal: Increase student achievement and teacher content knowledge through a deeper understanding of the math concepts.”  

The Senate Education Committee will hear a presentation on Apangea this afternoon and the Math Initiative tomorrow afternoon.

-Camille W.


  1. There are many positive things about the math initiative. Apangea is not one of them. It is a waste of education dollars that could be used better in other areas. Please discontinue this part of the initiative rather than supporting your political buddies ie Skip Smyser. Our schools need the money worse than he does.

  2. Thanks for the comment. Glad you have seen positive things with the Math Initiative. Across Idaho, we have seen great student achievement results from Apangea as well. Supt Luna outlined just some of those examples in his speech to JFAC. I encourage you to check it out at:

  3. I disagree with gkiester above. My students are making great progress with Apangea. It's problem-solving focus and structured equation building is great for the students. They are highly motivated by the points and prizes as well. Lets continue this great program!