The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced Wednesday that it is making grants of more than a $1 billion as part of a sweeping national plan to improve math education over the next four years. Its goal: to help students succeed in school and land well-paying jobs when they graduate, given research that shows the connection between strong math skills and career success.
The foundation, which has long drawn controversy over its education work, said that to put more money into math, it will cut grants to other subjects like reading, writing, and the arts. The increased focus on math comes after the pandemic “wreaked havoc” on learning in secondary schools, and widened gaps based on race in student performance, with math scores among Black students falling more sharply than declines among white students, according to Bob Hughes, director of the Gates Foundation’s elementary and education grant-making program.
The foundation made the switch because it sees better math instruction in earlier grades as a key to helping students succeed in school and beyond. Students who pass an introductory course on algebra by 9th grade are twice as likely to graduate from high school and go to college, Hughes said. The problem, he said, is for many students, math is not presented as a crucial, captivating subject.