Education initiative promotes hands-on learning for students

When it comes to learning math and science, some students need to relate and make some sort of connection. With the help of teachers in nine Blount County schools, students are making the connection.

Students in Vicki Heron’s seventh-grade math class at Hayden Middle School have pencils in hand and chips counted and are ready to tackle some integers. Theirs is one of many AMSTI (Alabama Math, Science, and Technology Initiative) classes under a program that is opening new doors for students statewide. This is the second year for the program at Hayden Middle, where all math and science teachers are AMSTI certified.

AMSTI is the state education department’s plan to advance math and science teaching – and learning – statewide. Over 335,000 Alabama students in Pre-K through 12th grade receive instruction by AMSTI-certified teachers every school day, twice a day – once in math and once in science. In addition, this program is significantly changing the way students view math and science, which are going from the least-liked subjects to the mostliked among students in participating AMSTI schools.

Teachers are successfully providing students with a new method of teaching, using hands-on applications in group settings where students engage in experiments and document what they have learned. This approach provides a method students prefer over the traditional teaching practices.

AMSTI delivers the educational materials directly to schools and supplies teachers with the training and support to successfully implement instruction. Tracie Sorensen, certified AMSTI teacher at Hayden Primary, received a weather kit for her kindergarten class that is customized for science-specific activities. “My students are really enjoying the science experiences. They have been fully engaged in the hands-on activities, and they are learning so much,” says Sorensen.

Approximately half of all public schools across the state are official AMSTI schools.

In 2008, Blountsville Elementary, Cleveland High, Hayden Middle, J. B. Pennington High, Susan Moore Elementary, and Susan Moore High became official AMSTI schools in Blount County. This year, AMSTI added three more Blount County schools to the program – Cleveland Elementary, Hayden Primary, and Hayden Elementary.

According to the AMSTI website, schools are selected through a competitive process. AMSTI sends math and science teachers to a two-week summer institute for two consecutive summers as well as requires additional professional development participation during the school year.

AMSTI is receiving national attention for its success raising achievement scores and improving student interest in math and science. Currently considered the largest and most comprehensive math and science initiative in the nation, AMSTI has become a model for reforming math and science education. For more information on AMSTI, visit