Hawai‘i P-20 supports systemic efforts to improve student success in mathematics

University of Hawaiʻi
Tammi Chun,
Executive Director
Posted: Mar 30, 2009

HONOLULU — Hawaiʻi P-20 Partnerships for Education co-sponsored two important math events in February. These events presented national and local perspectives on the importance of mathematics for the success of students and our state.

At the February 21 Math Summit, "Inverting the Mathematics Crisis in Hawaiʻi", 90 high school and University of Hawaiʻi (UH) mathematics faculty members and administrators collaborated to identify strategies for raising Hawaiʻi‘s students‘ success in mathematics at both the K-12 and college levels. Uri Treisman, professor of mathematics and public affairs at the University of Texas-Austin, and Carol Twigg, executive director for the National Center for Academic Transformation, delivered keynote addresses emphasizing the urgency of increasing student achievement in math and provided examples of effective strategies.

Treisman, who is described as a "rock star" of the mathematics world, underscored the importance of making learning relevant and engaging for students. He shared the recruitment and program strategies he has been using at UT Austin that increased the mathematics teacher output from seven majors in 1997 to over 180 today. He also showcased a computer program that helps teachers determine if a student is ready for the next stage. Equipped with assessment problems for different courses for grade 7 through calculus, this tool aids teachers in helping students excel in mathematics and assists those not meeting requirements. Twigg emphasized the role that information technology can play in shifting instructional practices to optimize the learning environment for students.

February‘s Math Summit is a follow-up to the first summit held in October 2008, "Defining the Math Crisis", which addressed two issues in particular: the alignment between UH campuses and the Department of Education (DOE), and improving teaching methods to increase student learning in grades K-12.

Since the summit, the seven UH community colleges have been working toward achieving alignment between their algebra courses so that all offer the same content. They are also looking at collaborating with the DOE algebra classes so students will transition to appropriate courses at the university level.

Hawaiʻi P-20 also co-sponsored a policy briefing titled "A New Look at Mathematics" with the Hawaiʻi Business Roundtable on February 24. Treisman compared Hawaiʻi‘s eighth grade math achievement to that of Sweden, Italy and Serbia and identified significant challenges—student expectations, training effective teachers, data-based decision making—that other states have addressed successfully. Linda Johnsrud, UH vice president for academic planning and policy, shared UH and DOE‘s recent efforts to improve educational outcomes with policymakers and business leaders.

This event allowed approximately 35 key university, government and business leaders an opportunity to hear about the impact mathematics has had on the education system and what leadership can do to support programs that will attract top-tier students into the education field in Hawaiʻi, help with the current teacher shortage, and provide the schools with the best and brightest teachers.

Powerpoint presentations, information and handouts on both math events can be downloaded at www.hawaii.edu/mathsummit.


Hawaiʻi P-20 Partnerships for Education is a statewide partnership led by the Good Beginnings Alliance, the Hawaiʻi State Department of Education, and the University of Hawaiʻi System with the goal of improving educational outcomes for Hawaiʻi. Hawaiʻi P-20 works to strengthen the pipeline so all students, from early childhood through higher education, achieve college and career success. For more information, visit www.p20hawaii.org.