Project PRIME is a partnership of Black Hills State University, Rapid City Area Schools and Technology and Innovation in Education. For over a decade, project partners have been working to improve the teaching and learning of K-12 mathematics within Rapid City Area Schools, to strengthen teacher preparation at Black Hills State University, and to create a vibrant professional learning community across all three organizations.
The partnership is a true collaborative in which each institution has changed—shifting and refining their approach—to become more effective together to achieve breakthroughs in mathematics teaching and learning. To rally key stakeholders around common goals, partners engaged with various groups based on existing relationships: teachers and administrators engaged with parents, families and students, K-12 teachers and university faculty learned from one another, and external evaluators captured the thoughts of all groups. The partnership also convened a conference of national leaders in Native American education to help address the particular needs of Native American learners in their curriculum and teaching.
The centerpiece of the partnership’s innovation is a mathematics program that focuses on conceptual understanding, with professional development opportunities for teachers that support this different style of math education. As a result of this bold initiative to improve K-12 mathematics instruction and teacher preparation, classroom instruction has improved markedly, student achievement has increased and the achievement gap between Native American and non-Native American students has declined. Equally encouraging are reports of students loving math, parents learning through “Family Math Nights” that math can be fun and that their children can succeed, and teachers expecting that all students can understand and enjoy math. These changes in expectations about math learning indicate sustainability and motivation for ongoing innovations among the partners.