Balance the Equation:

A Grand Challenge for Algebra 1

Algebra 1 is one of the most important on-track indicators of students’ future success. Students who do not complete Algebra 1 have a one-in-five chance of graduating from high school and, as it currently stands, Algebra 1 acts as a gatekeeper – rather than a gateway – to future success.

For nearly two decades the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has used Grand Challenges to address and solve key global health and development problems by seeking out and engaging the world’s brightest minds through an open and transparent process focused on the best ideas most likely to make an impact. We are launching the first-ever Grand Challenge focused on education in the United States, centered around the idea of transforming Algebra 1 into a gateway to success.

We are looking for partners to help us radically transform and rethink the traditional math classroom to better support students who have been historically marginalized in math, including Black and Latino students, student who speak a language other than English, and students affected by poverty in the United States. For more information, download the Balance the Equation fact sheet and watch this panel discussion from the 2020 ASU+GSV Summit.

Funding Opportunity

Balance the Equation has five areas of focus, derived through primary research with students, teachers, and academic experts across the nation. These areas have the biggest opportunity for altering the traditional classroom experience for priority students in order to achieve the desired outcomes. Specifically, these areas include:

    • Building out support systems
    • Improving relevance of algebra content
    • Elevating understanding of mathematical language
    • Empowering and strengthening teacher practices
    • Developing new or better feedback mechanisms

We are seeking proposals in response to Balance the Equation that think creatively and prioritize student identity and experience, including:

    • Expanding daily practices for productive mathematical discussions to build their math identity and reiterate math’s real-life connection in the evolving “classroom environment” (physically or virtually; synchronous or asynchronous).
    • Incorporating tasks and/or lessons that empower them and/or reflect students’ culture and community or serve to explore issues of humanity and social justice.
    • Altering the focus of mathematical aptitude from “easily, quickly, and independently arriving at a correct answer” oriented around the individual to more thoughtful, iterative approaches that promote multi-person processes and interactions.
    • Adding assessment approaches that empower and humanize students and leverage more nuanced forms of data.
    • Enhancing teacher professional development so educators are set up to meet the unique needs of each student, reflect upon their own biases, and build relationships that allow students to feel supported.

The Grand Challenge will launch: 5:00AM Pacific Time, October 7, 2020

Applications will be accepted until: Noon Pacific Time, November 6, 2020

For questions, please email