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Information Technology Designs App to Help Math Teachers Understand, Reach Students

In 2017, the National Science Foundation awarded a grant to both Boise State and Idaho State universities for “Video Case Analysis for Student Thinking” (VCAST).

VCAST involves developing online curriculum materials that teacher education programs can use to help future secondary education math teachers understand how their students think about mathematics.

However, the VCAST project team discovered existing software and systems didn’t meet their requirements for the broad customization and control needed.

The Office of Information Technology (OIT) at Boise State was approached to develop a new online application for this project from scratch. The only catch was the VCAST team needed the application in two months.

“Two months isn’t a lot of time,” said Dianne Owen, who managed the application development project within OIT. “But it went well because the stakeholders knew exactly what they wanted, and were already familiar with project management methodology.”

“The stakeholders wanted to make sure the app was responsive and mobile friendly,” added Derrick Fink, an OIT web developer. “They wanted students to be able to use the online curriculum materials on their phone, iPad or laptop and control access to the app for students no matter the institution, so that ruled out any existing solutions and required development of a custom application.”

Fink, along with developers Rick Anderson and Chao Tang, produced the application on schedule, and the VCAST team is very pleased with the result.

“We love the app,” said Jennifer Cichocki, VCAST project manager. “We’ve had folks do some testing, and one of the main responses has been that it’s very intuitive.”

OIT continues to make minor enhancements to the application, but students are already using the VCAST app in a pilot test at Boise State.

“We’re currently testing it with a Math 370 class. We’ll be expanding that next year to four test sites around the country,” Cichocki said.

Laurie Cavey, a professor in Boise State’s Department of Math and VCAST principal investigator, is looking forward to the next phase of the grant. “We’ll be implementing the materials at other institutions across the country who use a similar teacher preparation program modeled after a program called UTeach at University of Texas at Austin.”

From an education standpoint, it’s really exciting to bring real live student experiences with mathematics to the classroom for people who want to be high school teachers. This is really something that nobody else has done, so we’re very excited to be working on this and be in a position where we can easily share the materials with other people across the country.”

For Boise State Chief Information Officer Max Davis-Johnson, this project is another example of how OIT is continuing to enhance its support of the university’s research community.

“VCAST was a novel partnership between OIT’s web development team and the Department of Mathematics in support of funded research,” Davis-Johnson said. “We are excited about the opportunity to contribute directly to research efforts and look forward to doing more of this type of development and support in the future.”


Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. Funding provided by the National Science Foundation IUSE program, Award No. 1726543.