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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Does Gates have 'right answer' for math ed?

Photo: Vanessa Garcia/Pexels

The Gates Foundation is going to put more than a billion dollars into math education. Do we know how to teach math? asks Jay Caspian Kang in The New Yorker.

Bob Hughes, Gates' director of K-12 education, hopes to help “African American and Latino students and students of all races and backgrounds experiencing poverty.” The initiative will focus on transition years, such as the move from eighth to ninth grade.

Goals include "cutting costs in order to expand math tutoring for students who have fallen behind their grade level, implementing more digital tools, and developing curricula and classroom materials that will aim to help teachers make math both accessible and challenging," writes Kang.

The foundation is seeking an apolitical "middle ground" between traditionalists and social-justice warriors, a happy place where everyone focuses on learning rather than scoring culture-war points.

Hughes explicitly rejects the progressive idea that getting the right answer isn't as important as developing problem-solving skills through “inquiry-based learning,” he told Kang.

“In other subjects, there may be different answers or you can have a multiplicity of interpretations. Math has a right answer; there are multiple ways to get there, but there is a right answer. We believe it’s important for kids to get to that right answer. And that’s not a universally agreed-upon notion in some quarters.”

Gates researchers believe they can analyze data, identify the best techniques and get teachers to use high-quality curriculum and materials, Kang writes.

Is there a "science of math" teaching? If so, can researchers find it and propagate it?

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