Silicon Valley Mathematics Initiative (SVMI)

The Silicon Valley Mathematics Initiative is a comprehensive effort to improve mathematics instruction and student learning in a large number of Silicon Valley schools and then to broadly disseminate the learning. The Initiative is based on two central beliefs or theories of action:
  1. Positive change is education that occurs through a continuous loop of focusing on high standards, assessing students’ work to the standards, examining students’ products and analyzing students’ understandings from the assessments, developing effective educational strategies and practices that are consistent with the findings, and tailoring instruction to enhance student learning and understanding.
  2. Improved achievement is an outcome of improved instruction. Improved instruction is an outcome of ongoing, comprehensive, intensive professional development based on high performance expectations, ongoing professional development and improved math instruction.

The Noyce Foundation's twelve-year funding support of the Silicon Valley Mathematics Initiative concluded on June 30, 2009. The work with school districts has transitioned to the San Jose State Foundation. The Noyce Foundation is working with national partners, including the Charles A. Dana Center, Agile Mind, and the Urban Math Leaders Network, to disseminate the tools and assets of the Silicon Valley Mathematics Initiative nationally. For more information about the ongoing work of the Silicon Valley Mathematics Initiative at the San Jose State University Foundation visit the SVMI website.


The Silicon Valley Mathematics Initiative involves several inter-related components that include the following:

Professional Development with an Emphasis on Algebraic Reasoning:

The initiative operates on the principle that by focusing on the key strategies of professional development, math content coaching, and performance assessments, student achievement as measured against national math standards will improve. The professional development programs involve teachers, math coaches, and site leaders in year-round math content sessions, summer institutes, professional growth workshops and math network meetings. Principals and key district personnel attend training in instructional leadership, school change, and math pedagogical content knowledge. With intensive in-class coaching, math teachers improve instruction by focusing on important content concepts and by developing techniques to support all students. Coaches vary the roles they play from modeling to team-teaching to critiquing lessons. Importantly, teachers regularly use performance assessment to inform their instruction.

Content Coaching:

Through intensive in-class coaching, math teachers improve instruction by focusing on important content and by developing techniques to support all students. Coaching involves an ongoing process of pre-teaching conferences, in-class experiences, and post-conferences. The focus of the pedagogical content coaching is on students’ thinking, understanding, and work products. District coaches receive ongoing professional development on instructional strategies, learning theory, and mathematics.


Within the member school districts, the Silicon Valley Mathematics Initiative sponsors the annual administration of the MARS exam, a summative math performance assessment to measure students’ ability to solve non-routine problems, explain and justify their solutions and promote high level thinking skills. Student work is analyzed so the thinking and misconceptions can be reported to the schools to inform teachers and support improved instruction. Each year the results of the MARS exam are reported to all stakeholders in the school system.