Project: Promoting Reflective Inquiry in Mathematics Education (PRIME)

Authors: Pam Tambe, Becky Carroll, Heather Mitchell, Laurie Lopez, Elizabeth Horsch, Mark St. John

Type: Report

Publication: September 2007

How Do You Get The Numbers To Dance? Effective Educational Practices In Mathematics for Native American Learners: A Conference Summary (pdf, 26 pages)


In late May 2007, a two-day “think tank” event was held at the Crazy Horse Monument in the Black Hills of South Dakota. This event brought together expert educators from throughout the United States to discuss effective educational practices in mathematics for Native American students. The participants included mathematics educators from universities and tribal colleges, educators from school districts with high Native American populations, state-level policy makers, and researchers.

The event was sponsored by the Promoting Reflective Inquiry in Mathematics Education (PRIME) project, a National Science Foundation (NSF) funded Math Science Partnership project involving the Rapid City Area Schools, Technology in Education (TIE), and Black Hills State University. The project represents a concerted effort to improve K-16 mathematics education in the school district and at the university. Begun in 2002, the work of PRIME has focused on professional development for teachers and principals and the implementation of more inquiry-based mathematics instructional materials. In addition, one of the main goals of the PRIME project has been to narrow the achievement gap between Native and non-Native American students. In year four of the project, faced with troubling and persistent disparities, project leaders wondered what more they could do to address the particular needs of Native students in mathematics. They sought supplemental funding from NSF for a conference that would bring together experts to share promising strategies in helping Native American students learn mathematics.

Inverness Research Inc. has served as the external evaluator to the PRIME project for the past five years, documenting and studying the efforts of the project. Five senior researchers from Inverness Research Inc. attended the conference. During the conference, we participated in all sessions. Our role in the conference was to carefully listen to and document the discussions and to summarize the main ideas that emerged. In this paper, we will share the main ideas that emerged during the two-day conference. We have drawn in large part upon the discussions at the conference, but also from our experiences studying and evaluating many other mathematics education projects.

This paper is organized into sections that generally follow the flow of the conference events. In the first section, we describe the nature of the problem, focusing in particular on the descriptions of mathematics education for Native American students that emerged during the conference. This will be followed by a summary of strategies–those that have been found to be successful in specific instances and locations–that were shared during the conference. Then we summarize the implications–the collective thinking of the group about the most important ideas to come out of the conference. Finally, from our own perspective, we offer some closing thoughts.

Intended Audience

Science-Technology-Engineering-Math (STEM) Education Leaders, Mathematics Educators, District Administrators and School Leaders, Funders, and general public.


Any and all errors are claimed by the authors of this document, Inverness Research, Inc.

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