Middle School Mathematics Education Pilot Project Launched Today

Posted on: August 10, 2009

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - SunBay Digital Mathematics, a math education pilot project, was recently launched. The Helios Education Foundation and the Pinellas County School District are partnering with SRI International and the College of Education at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg (USFSP) in a collaborative project to set the direction of the future of middle school mathematics education for Pinellas County. In this one year pilot, the focus will be on refining and evaluating the use of proven effective mathematics resources in select middle school classrooms. The Pinellas Education Foundation will serve as the fiscal agent for funding of the project.

If funding is secured for future years, the project will be expanded to include more teachers and students. Long-term goals of the SunBay project include demonstrating positive outcomes in students' mathematics achievement, including their interest in continuing to take challenging mathematics courses.

“Helios Education Foundation is excited about our investment in the SunBay Digital Mathematics Program in Pinellas County because it will help middle school students better engage in math at a time when it has the most potential to lead them toward rewarding careers,” said Helios Education Foundation president and CEO Paul Luna. “This program marries innovations in digital curriculum with opportunities for teacher professional development, and we see that all working together to increase student achievement, gets students excited about math and puts them on a path toward postsecondary education success.”

“This initiative will serve as a catalyst in redefining math education for our students,” said Pinellas County Schools’ Superintendent Julie Janssen. “We believe this exciting and interactive approach will better engage students and build their capacity to be effective problem solvers.”

The project will address the need for alignment and integration of curriculum materials, professional resources, and strategies that are known to work. The project will provide strategic recommendations for sustainable innovation in Pinellas County middle school mathematics education. The first year of funding has been obtained and the project intends to seek additional support for future years.

“We are very pleased to see the SunBay Digital Math project get under way,” said Curtis R. Carlson, Ph.D, president and CEO of SRI International. “The initiation of the project was due in large part to the vision and leadership of the City of St. Petersburg and the St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership, who brought SRI together with the Pinellas County schools and Education Foundation, the Helios Education
Foundation, and the College of Education at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg.”

"Too many students ask the question, ‘Why do I have to take algebra?’ This partnership is a major step on the road to helping educators bring the real world into the classroom using 21st Century digital learning to make mathematics education come alive," said Terry Boehm, President of the Pinellas Education Foundation.

The pilot project builds on SRI’s decade of National Science Foundation-funded work developing curriculum that has been rigorously evaluated to show substantial gains in students’ mathematics learning. Earlier SRI research has demonstrated success in educational programs that combine innovative mathematics curriculum with dynamic mathematics technology and teacher training.

“Research has shown that middle school students are likely to disengage from the subject of math at the time that mathematics has the most potential to lead them towards a rewarding career in science, technology, or engineering – fields that are critical in today’s innovation economy,” said Phil Vahey, Ph.D., senior research scientist in SRI's Center for Technology in Learning. “SRI will lead the effort to revise digital mathematics materials that have been shown to be successful in prior work, and evaluate whether they meet Florida’s needs.”

The College of Education at USFSP will continue to build on its 10-year collaboration with Pinellas County Schools. The College of Education’s graduate program, with concentrations in mathematics and science, has trained the majority of elementary mathematics supervisors in the school district. The college is committed to teacher training that will lead to advancement in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields.

“This project responds directly to the college’s emphasis in strengthening pre-service and in-service programs in STEM fields,” said Vivian Fueyo, Ph.D, College of Education Dean, University of South Florida St. Petersburg. “Given our strong partnership with the Pinellas School District, the opportunity to combine SRI’s innovative digital mathematics curriculum and the college’s expertise in mathematics education has created the ideal combination for achieving sustainable change. We are committed to preparing teachers for STEM fields and having our faculty members share their expertise on the topic with future and current professionals.”

Project Overview
Fifteen seventh grade teachers in seven Pinellas County middle schools will attend workshops and monthly meetings focused on using technology-based curriculum units to teach advanced mathematics concepts aligned with the mathematics components of Florida’s Next Generation Sunshine State Standards.

The teachers will implement two technology-based curriculum units on advanced math concepts, and have the opportunity to provide input on how the materials can be refined to meet the County’s needs. One unit will focus on students' understanding of rate and proportionality in ways that are important to later mathematics and to science and engineering studies. The second unit will focus on core geometry topics. These units will also incorporate important skills such as critical thinking, problem-solving, collaboration and communication. Throughout, the project research team will support teachers’ use of the materials and also gather data on the effectiveness of the materials and technology.

The team will also conduct meetings with key stakeholders in Pinellas County to develop a comprehensive strategic plan with recommendations on expanding the pilot in Pinellas County schools.

About Helios Education Foundation
Helios Education Foundation is the largest philanthropic organization serving Arizona and Florida focused solely on education. The Foundation is dedicated to enriching the lives of individuals in Arizona and Florida by creating opportunities for success in postsecondary education and its community investments are made across three impact areas: Early Childhood Education, the Transition Years (grades 5-12) and Postsecondary Education. Since inception in 2004, Helios Education Foundation has invested over $62 million into education-related programs and initiatives in both states. For more information, visit the Foundation online at

About Pinellas County Schools
Pinellas County Schools, an award-winning school district, has been recognized on the national and state levels for its strong efforts and dedication of its students, teachers and staff. The district is located on Florida’s west coast and is the seventh-largest school district in the state and 25th largest in the U.S. with a projected K-12 student enrollment of approximately 102,550. Pinellas County Schools is the largest employer in the county with more than 17,000 teachers, administrators and support staff. The district works collaboratively with parents, business leaders and the community to reach the goal of 100% student success and prepares students for success in college or careers.

About Pinellas Education Foundation
The Pinellas Education Foundation is a coalition of business and community leaders who work together to improve the quality of public education. They do this by advocating for public education reform, creating programs to improve student and teacher performance, and raising funds for scholarships, grants and teacher recognition. Some of the most successful Foundation programs are the Doorways Scholarship Program, Enterprise Village and Finance Park, Teach for Excellence Classroom Grants, and the Frances Stavros Career Education Scholarships.

About SRI International
Silicon Valley-based SRI International is one of the world's leading independent, nonprofit research and technology development organizations. Perhaps best known for its invention of the computer mouse and interactive computing, SRI has also been responsible for major advances in networking and communications, robotics, drug discovery and development, advanced materials, atmospheric research, education research, economic development, national security, and more. The nonprofit institute performs sponsored research and development for government agencies, businesses, and foundations. SRI also licenses its technologies, forms strategic alliances, and creates spin-off companies.

SRI’s Center for Technology in Learning is focused on improving teaching and learning by conducting research in the innovative design, use and assessment of interactive learning environments. Within the Center, a Strategic Learning Consulting practice helps educational technology firms improve their products by providing research insights and strengthening educational designs.

About University of South Florida St. Petersburg
Established in 1965, the University of South Florida St. Petersburg is a fiscally autonomous institution of the University of South Florida. USF St. Petersburg is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to award degrees at the baccalaureate and master's levels. With a commitment to excellence in research and teaching, USF St. Petersburg values faculty-student research collaboration, interdisciplinary perspectives, university-community partnerships and a student-centered environment.

The College of Education at USF St. Petersburg, which is a candidate for national accreditation by the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education, offers graduate and undergraduate degree programs recognized by the Florida Department of Education for accomplishing defined learning outcomes, supported by a foundation of applied research, and committed to meeting the needs of the community and the candidates it serves. In pursuit of this mission, faculty in the College of Education are guided by a respect for evidence, creating and extending knowledge by supporting research, and by the pursuit of scholarship. The College of Education seeks to prepare exemplary teachers and other educational personnel for roles in a diverse and changing society. It promotes life-long learning, is committed to stewardship that reflects the ethics of community responsibility, and continually strives to meet the educational needs of all learners.

Category: College and Career Readiness

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