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BHSU partnership receives 2013 Bush Prize for Community Innovation

What’s My Pattern? Students collaborate to explore the answer to this mathematics problem.
Young mathematicians check each other’s knowledge of number combinations.

Project PRIME (Promoting Reflective Inquiry in Mathematics Education), the decade-long effort of Black Hills State University, the Rapid City School District and the regional nonprofit Technology and Innovation in Education (TIE) to improve K-12 mathematics instruction, is one of nine projects awarded an inaugural Bush Prize for Community Innovation.

The Bush Prize for Community Innovation, presented by the Saint Paul-based Bush Foundation, honors and supports innovative organizations and projects with a track record of making great ideas happen. Along with the recognition, Project PRIME received more than $310,000 to be used to sustain and expand their work.

“The collective record of accomplishment of the Bush Prize winners is a testament to what can be achieved by intentionally, thoughtfully and continuously engaging the community in the problem-solving process. Each organization has established a culture of innovation that has led to positive impact in their community,” said Bush Foundation President Jennifer Ford Reedy.

Three organizations from each state that the Bush Foundation serves - South Dakota, North Dakota and Minnesota - were awarded a 2013 Bush Prize. South Dakota’s two other organizations were Behavior Management Systems, Inc., and Four Bands Community Fund.

"We're absolutely delighted to have received the Bush Prize. It affirms the success and strength of the longstanding partnership of Rapid City Area Schools, TIE, and Black Hills State University to improve the teaching and learning of K-12 mathematics,” said Ben Sayler, BHSU professor and a member of Project PRIME’s director team. “We're eager to continue learning together and to expand our work together for years and years to come."

The Center for the Advancement of Math and Science Education (CAMSE) at BHSU is the institutional home of Project PRIME. June Apaza, the director of CAMSE and project director of the grant, echoed Sayler’s thoughts.  “It is an honor to have our work over the last 11 years acknowledged and rewarded with this prize,” she said. “We look forward to using these resources to continue and expand our efforts.”

Since 2002, 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 BHSU, and to create a vibrant professional learning community across all three organizations.

According to the Bush Foundation, Project PRIME is a true collaboration in which each institution has changed – shifting and refining their approach - to become more effective together to achieve breakthroughs in mathematics teaching and learning.   

In its overview of the project, the Bush Foundation said the centerpiece of the partnership’s innovation is a mathematics program that focuses on conceptual understanding and provides professional development opportunities for teachers that support this different style of math education.

Since beginning the project, BHSU, the Rapid City School District and TIE have made great strides in improving K-12 mathematics instruction and teacher preparation.

“Tremendous progress has been made over the 11-year span,” Sayler said. “Classroom instruction has improved markedly as measured by national experts, student achievement has increased and the achievement gap between Native American and non-Native American students has declined.”

The Bush Foundation also cited 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,” according to the overview.

Learn more about the 2013 Bush Prize winners at

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