With a focus on underserved students in grades three through eight, the EF+Math Program will support efforts to boost students' ability to learn math content by strengthening their executive function skills, including self-control and the ability to pay attention, keep track of ideas, and think flexibly. Currently, only 40 percent of fourth-graders in the United States are proficient in math, with the percentages falling in later grades.
"Executive functions allow us to take control of our learning and our lives, and evidence suggests they may be skills that can supercharge math learning," said EF+Math Program director Melina Uncapher in a blog post. "[S]uccess in math is critical to many factors for success in young adulthood, and executive function is foundational for learning math."
Housed within the NewsSchools Venture Fund, the program will distribute about $9 million annually to teams of educators, researchers, and developers working to co-design, build, pilot, and improve new approaches to math learning in real-world classrooms; create opportunities for teams to develop and share ideas; and ensure that educators are included in the discovery and development process. The program also will work to ensure that equity and privacy are built into the core design of funded approaches; that those approaches are grounded in rigorous science and learning research; and that all the approaches developed are relevant to teachers and students. The program will support teams via four tracks — applied research, prototyping, designing for use, and evaluation.
EF+Math is part of a joint research and development initiative launched by the Gates Foundation and CZI in 2018 to explore how accelerated R+D might contribute to improved education outcomes in three areas: writing and requisite habits, skills, and strategies; mathematical understanding, application, and related mindsets; and executive function. The program was developed based on nearly five hundred responses to a request for information and interviews with nearly a thousand educators.
"This program is designed with educators at its core because it really would be impossible to do the work well without them," said NewSchools Venture Fund CEO Stacey Childress. "They're content experts, and they also bring the unique perspective of understanding what works well inside classrooms."