- The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will dedicate $1.1 billion in grants over the next four years under a 10-year strategy to renew and deepen focus on math in K-12 education. The move represents a shift away from funding English language arts and other subjects to prioritize math instruction, said Bob Hughes, the foundation’s director of U.S. K-12 programs, during a press call on Monday.
- Under this new strategy, the foundation plans to invest in strong teacher preparation programs to bring high-quality math curriculum to more students. The nonprofit will encourage districts and schools to accelerate continuous improvement in math instruction, as it helps develop instructional materials that improve student motivation, engagement and persistence, Hughes said.
- The foundation plans to build relationships across the country, but to particularly target four states — California, Texas, Florida and New York — for grants. Those states were chosen with an equity lens, Hughes said, given a vast majority of Black and Latino students live in those areas.
A key goal of the Gates Foundation is to ensure race, ethnicity, gender and socioeconomic status no longer predict a person’s educational outcome and economic mobility, the nonprofit shared in its announcement.
As the nonprofit’s priorities shift to math, it is looking to address barriers in math instruction faced by Black and Latino students and those from low-income backgrounds.
Overall, the pandemic took a toll on math test scores among 9-year-olds, as measured by the National Assessment of Educational Progress, where scores from winter 2022 dropped to levels last seen two decades ago. The declines were further exacerbated for students of color, as Black students’ math scores decreased by 13 points, Hispanic students by 8 and White students by 5, according to NAEP data released in September.
Reading scores, however, decreased by 6 points across the board for Black, Hispanic and White students.
“Math helps students make sense of the world. It gives them critical thinking and problem solving skills they can use later as adults,” Hughes said. “Even before the pandemic, too many students did not have equitable access to qualified math teachers, advanced coursework, high-quality curriculum, tutoring, or other resources necessary to master and enjoy and succeed at math. This is true today.”
NAEP results are to be released Oct. 24 for students in grades 4 and 8 in both math and reading.