A Message from Interim Executive Director Ben Moynihan

by | Dec 5, 2022

Dear Friends of the Algebra Project,

On one sunny afternoon in the fall of 1991, sitting in his family’s living room, Bob Moses asked me if I’d like to join the Algebra Project to work on an African Drums & Ratios Curriculum. I said yes, inspired first by what I knew about the role he and SNCC peers played in the early 1960s struggle that Black Mississippians waged to secure their right to vote, and second, by his vision for Algebra and college preparatory mathematics as a key to opening doors of opportunity.

Bob didn’t accept my enthusiasm that day. Rather, he encouraged me to think it over carefully and get back to him. He knew what it would take to help as he organized an army of mathematicians, teachers, and community folks in service of opening up high level mathematics to every student. I think he wanted to make sure I was prepared to stay the course.

I am still here and as we approach 2023, 41 years after Bob started the Algebra Project, the math insurgency he started is also still here. And we believe all the more strongly that every child can learn the math they need to graduate high school, and be ready for the college or career they choose and therefore to exercise their full citizenship in today’s 21st century democracy and Information Age economy.

The dismal math scores from the 2022 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) along with the COVID-19 pandemic together laid bare the pre-existing and underlying inequities too many students are exposed to and suffer through because of our ill-conceived national education policy. Bob spoke of such inequities as “…a constitutional fault line — an embedded caste system — that we need to find our way across. It is a fault line that is not only about race: class, identity and disabilities also block the path to equal educational opportunity for millions of students.”

Bob’s struggle continues: as a nation we have yet to see all students in the nation as our students, and as such, we have yet to agree that all young people are to be guaranteed a high-quality public school education – it is neither enshrined in our Federal Constitution nor operationalized in how we run the nation’s public schools.

Like the Mississippi sharecroppers, day laborers, organizers, and volunteers who fought so valiantly for the vote, we invite you into this struggle for mathematics and high-quality education for all. That is the work Bob asked us to continue – using Algebra to open up space in our schools for students and teachers to take the lead on preparing future generations with the mathematical fluency required for full participation in American democracy. At the Algebra Project, our enduring purpose is to provide the curriculum, pedagogy, professional development, and organizing strategies schools can use to open up spaces in which students and teachers can work together, co-creating understanding and proficiency in mathematics.

I did not yet appreciate that the kind of change that Bob envisioned would require generations to realize. Nor could I foresee that an initial three-year commitment would lead me on a circuitous path through thirty years, and counting, with the project.

In the fall of 1991, one afternoon in the Moses family’s living room, I joined a learning community that frames math education as a social justice issue, fighting alongside our young people and teachers as they step into their own intrinsic power as learners, as teachers, as people. As we rededicate ourselves to carrying forward Bob’s vision for raising the floor of K-12 math literacy, we humbly ask for you to join us, as an ally, collaborator, and donor. Please visit our website at https://www.algebra.org/ to learn how you can get involved and support this work. Thank you!

The Algebra Project, Inc.

Cambridge, Massachusetts

November 29, 2022

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