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Gates Foundation Eyes Middle Years Math Instruction

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The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has signalled one of its new focus areas: improving "middle years" math for black, Latino, and low-income students and strengthening the teaching of the subject.

The foundation is inviting feedback on its new research and development plan, seeking information on programs, instructional models, and tools for improving teaching and learning in this area that seem promising. It's especially interested in what it calls "breakthrough" results, defined as making more than a year's progress toward grade-level expectations, high levels of proficiency on year-end tests, or demonstrating high levels of student engagement or motivation that show promise in deepening math learning.

"Becoming a high performer in mathematics, as a student, ultimately unlocks power. It opens up a world of opportunities for students to have access to colleges and careers where they can thrive," Gates officials write in the request for information.

The foundation has an expansive idea of what middle-years math consists of, saying that these interventions could focus on grades 3-9, which would include everything from initial fractions study to algebra. So despite the name, this is not limited to middle school-age children. And it's also inviting a wide range of parties to provide feedback, from nonprofits and for-profit organizations to researchers and summer school providers.

In all, this will be a piece of the approximately $425 million the Gates Foundation plans to put¬†into research and development—a quarter of its new $1.7 billion investment¬†announced last October.

The foundation hasn't yet issued a formal request for proposals, so it's not clear how much it will spend specifically on the middle-years math research. As it did earlier this year with improvement networks, Gates will use the feedback it receives to craft its RFP. (It opened its formal competition for the networks in January).

Gates also funds Education Week's coverage of continuous improvement. The newspaper retains sole editorial control over its content.

Image: Getty

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