NYC Launches Middle Grade Math App Challenge

Today, Mayor Bloomberg announced the Gap App Challenge.  This Challenge will be the first time the DOE, or any urban district to our knowledge, has used a prize-based challenge to generate new ideas to meet critical needs in our schools.  This Challenge solicits tools that will support more effective teaching, learning, and administration in middle school math classrooms.  Promising tools will be piloted and refined in iZone schools, impact and lessons learned will be publicly shared, and the most promising solutions will be supported to take to scale.  It is the first of many efforts that the iZone will sponsor to enlarge the edtech market’s ability to meet the needs of NYC students.
Tom Vander Ark will serve as one of the judges.  As an edtech blogger, venture investor, and former president of the X Prize Foundation Tom is well acquainted with the state of math apps and the use of prizes.  On Thursday, Getting Smart will release a case study on the philanthropic use of prizes.
For more, watch the video, see the press release below, and read the Getting Smart feature on the iZone, the review of NYC’s reform leadership, and a summary of NYC edtech leadership.


Gap App Challenge is First Such Competition to be Led by a School District in the Nation, and First in a Series the City Will Host to Develop New Teaching Tools

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Dennis M. Walcott today launched a new software development competition for programs to help middle school students excel in math. The Gap App Challenge invites developers to submit applications, games or other programs that focus on middle school math and can be used by students, teachers or parents. The winning programs will be announced this June and all submissions will be considered for school-based pilots to begin next fall. The competition is a part of the Department of Education’s Innovation Zone (iZone) program, which includes 250 schools that use new approaches to help students learn at their own pace. It is the first such competition to be led by a school district in the country, and also the first in a series of challenges the City will host to develop new teaching tools. The Mayor and Chancellor made the announcement at the East Bronx Academy for the Future, an iZone school, where they were joined by Principal Sarah Scrogin, Chief Digital Officer Rachel Haot and IDEO partner Duane Bray.
“New York City is home to more and more of the world’s most successful startups, and by channeling that tremendous creative energy into our public schools, we can help our students thrive,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “Our public schools are more successful today than ever before, and the pioneering new technology we gain through the Gap App Challenge will better prepare more students for their future.”
“Providing our students with the support they need is essential for their success, especially during their middle school years,” said Chancellor Walcott. “The Gap App Challenge will enable us to provide our schools with innovative and powerful new tools that will enhance learning in the classroom.”
“The Gap App Challenge is an important step forward in Mayor Bloomberg’s digital roadmap for New York City,” said Rachel Haot, Chief Digital Officer. “By supporting several key elements in the roadmap – STEM education, government innovation and a thriving local technology sector – the Challenge is a powerful initiative that will further establish New York City as the world’s leading digital city.”
“We’re very excited to partner with the iZone on this effort,” said IDEO partner Duane Bray. “This is our first collaboration with the City of New York, and the Department of Education is a trailblazer in exploring new ways to find solutions to critical and chronic problems.”
Beginning today, developers may submit ideas online for applications, games and other programs that focus on improving middle school math skills. The tools may be intended for use by students, teachers or parents, and either in or out of the classroom. Submissions will be accepted through April 10, 2013, and will be reviewed by two panels: one comprised of public school principals and teachers, and the second comprised of Department of Education officials and experts in technology, media and design. The criteria include idea originality, potential impact and feasibility.
The Gap App Challenge winners will be announced in June and will receive up to $104,000 in cash prizes and other services, including web and database support from sponsor companies like Amazon. Awards will be made for Best Instructional App and Best Administrative and Engagement App. Prizes will also be given to the runners up in those categories and five honorable mention submissions. Each submission will be considered for school-based pilots that will begin next fall in iZone public schools. Information about the Gap App Challenge is available at
The iZone program launched in the 2010-2011 school year with 81 schools and is focused on quickly identifying, piloting and applying innovative strategies to education challenges. This school year, iZone grew to include 250 schools. The Gap App Challenge is the first in a series of efforts to bring together educators, developers and entrepreneurs to bring new approaches to teaching and learning.  Educators will gain access to promising new solutions to help personalize student learning, while education-tech companies will benefit from working collaboratively with educators on authentic problems. Contributors and supporters include the U.S. Department of Education, Amazon Web Services, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Diller–von Furstenberg Family Foundation, The Booth Ferris Foundation, the Anthony Meyer Family Foundation, the Blue Ridge Foundation, Clever, Socratic Labs, and General Assembly. The program grant partners include IDEO, ChallengePost, EdSurge,NYU’s Research Alliance for NYC Schools, Center on ReinventingPublic Education and the Games for Learning Institute.

Getting Smart Staff

The Getting Smart Staff believes in learning out loud and always being an advocate for things that we are excited about. As a result, we write a lot. Do you have a story we should cover? Email [email protected]

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