The reason the Gates foundation is focused primarily on math these days is two prong. One is providing resources for those interested in STEM fields. The other is teaching “equitable” math.

“A coalition of left-wing educators introduced A Pathway to Equitable Math Instruction, a toolkit introducing "an integrated approach to mathematics that centers Black, Latinx, and Multilingual students in grades 6-8." The group hopes educators will help remove white supremacy culture from math classes "as they navigate the individual and collective journey from equity to anti-racism."

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation funded the groups behind A Pathway to Equitable Math Instruction with nearly $140 million. That includes millions to The Education Trust, a fringe education advocacy group that refers to student loan debt for black students as "Jim Crow debt," and Teach Plus, which encourages teachers to become "social agents of change."”

To get the “live links” from this quote go to this article:


I wrote about issues I saw with math education here: https://collettegreystone.substack.com/p/do-you-know-how-to-count

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I agree that the "Reading Wars" and "Math Wars" are different. I suspect the Gates Foundation is focusing on math because comparing literacy rates with numeracy rates in America, the levels of proficiency in math are in far worse shape than reading and writing for all demographic groups. It tends to be easier to measure numeracy because you get one correct answer when solving math problems. Math is a "language" you learn in sequence, and memorization of math facts to a level of automaticity is mandatory. Memorizing your math facts is in a way the "Phonics of math". Other than Bill Gates children accidentally discovering Khan Academy I don’t recall any Gate’s foundation education programs having much if any positive impact.

I recently published a book that covers these issues in detail. "The Doom Loop" chronicles my twenty-year experience working within and around education reform. The subtitle outlines the contents and the target audience. "A parents field guide to mitigating the math wars, reading wars, and teacher wars". There are separate chapters detailing the math, reading and teacher wars and what a parent can do to mitigate their impact.

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You may find my take on the Reading Wars interesting: http://mychildwillread.org/

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I agree about the background experiences that children need in order to read well and to apply math skills to other fields where appropriate. And I agree that it is not a one to one correspondence.

I take umbrage when you make sweeping statements about all teacher educators following one approach to learning where phonics is de-emphasized and learning basic math is not encouraged. Still, as with reading, more is needed to become a good math student who can use math in everyday life and transfer or use math in other curriculum areas. That being said, I will give you an example of what is wrong with just teaching algorithms when there is no conceptual knowledge of what you are doing.

One year, back in the late '80s, I assisted a high school teacher with a class that was focused on "Consumer Math" rather than having them move on to pre-algebra. This class of students performed poorly on math tests, so that is why they did not go into higher math classes. What I saw convinced me that when children are younger, they need a two pronged approach to math - memorizing number facts along with experiences that provide them conceptual understanding of math operations. These high school freshmen could not perform a math operation that varied in the least from the way they learned it. Take a problem that they are used to seeing presented vertically, present it horizontally and they are then unable to process what to do. Why is this??? I was actually shocked because my field is early childhood education. These young people had no idea of what the numbers represented and therefore could not do the problems. Somewhere back in their earlier school years, the emphasis was only on algorithms without combining that with experiences that would give them conceptual understanding of what they were doing. To me, this parallels the reading issue of providing only a focus on phonics and skills without expanding students' background knowledge so that when they have mastered skills, they can understand complex texts.

Even very bright children who read well if given texts that cover historical periods or contexts unfamiliar to them will not understand fully what they are reading. Context is everything. Having a broad background in history or experiences outside your immediate environment helps with comprehension.

If young children learn basic number facts and operations and importantly have experiences with activities and play that provide them with conceptual understanding of mathematical concepts supported by their teachers, which assumes they have teachers who understand the importance of this, their performance in math will/should be higher.

There is no simple answer to any of this.

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