Bill and Melinda Gates Make a Major Choice

The former spouses continue to work together on common causes that they regard as essential.

Bill and Melinda French Gates may no longer be married, but their shared passion for benefiting the world remains intact. 

Since their resounding divorce in May 2021, the former spouses remain committed to the foundation they have created: The Gates Foundation. 

French Gates also individually finances causes which are close to her heart.

The Gates Foundation recently announced a donation of $1.2 billion to fight polio, a dangerous disease which was believed to have been eradicated in Western countries. This deadly viral disease reappeared this summer in New York, Great Britain and Israel.

The Gates have again sounded the alarm and continue to do the same on other diseases, such as malaria.

They have just raised the alert on another problem which they consider crucial: the widening of socio-economic disparities between communities since the pandemic.

Math a Priority

According to the Gates, the pandemic has contributed in leaving behind Black and Latino communities and low-income families. They want to stop the widening of this inequality gap by heightening their focus on education. 

Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates have therefore decided, via their foundation, to put $1.1 billion into the teaching of math in school in the United States. Basically, they’re going to provide grants of about $1.1 billion for improving the students’ math skills, as opposed to reading, writing, and the arts.

The aim is to improve the math level of minority and low-income students, so that they have a better chance of going to college or getting better-paying jobs when they graduate high school. Research has shown a strong link between well-paid jobs and the knowledge of math.

“Now is the time for bolder and clearer focus,” Bob Hughes, the director of the Gates Foundation’s elementary and education grant-making program, said in a blog post. “Unfinished learning resulting from the pandemic—and the equity and outcome gaps that it exacerbated—require us all to think differently about how we’re approaching math education.”

New Approach

He added that:

“This is especially true of those working on behalf of the students at the center of our efforts—Black and Latino students and students from low-income backgrounds—who even before the pandemic experienced inequitable access to qualified math teachers, advanced coursework, high-quality curriculum, tutoring and other resources necessary to serve the potential of every student.”

Hughes admits that there are other factors which impact students’ opportunities and outcomes. But he points out that research shows that students who pass Algebra 1 by ninth grade are twice as likely to graduate high school. They are also more likely to enroll and graduate with a bachelor’s degree and go on to well-paid careers. 

“The most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) data, which shows a sharp decline in math achievement for nearly all subgroups, reinforces the urgency of redoubling our math efforts.”

To change things, the foundation wants to start by changing the way math is taught and the student experience which surrounds math classes.

Math class “is not a place where they [students] feel confident, supported, or even productive. Why is that the case? And how can we make math a rigorous and positive experience that sets students up for success both in school and in life?” Hughes said.


The new goal of the Gates Foundation is to show low-income and minorities students that math “makes sense of the world and it is analytical thinking in action—the ability to understand patterns, problems, and challenges with ever increasing precision.”

The Gates Foundation’s approach to education has often been criticized and the foundation was forced to backtrack. In 2018, it decided to abandon an approach, based on setting a set of objectives that students had to achieve at each grade level.

The Foundation then decided to create a network of schools facing the same challenges, in order to allow more flexibility and creativity. Teachers could create classes and teaching tools according to what they believed would be a better fit for their students.

In 2020, the foundation held a $10 million competition to find new ways to teach algebra.

The new approach spans across the next 10 years, but the $1.1 billion in funding only covers the first four. The Gates Foundation chose the states of New York, California, Florida and Texas, which have large black and Latino populations, as a starting point.

Gates will support the development of instructional materials that increase student motivation, engagement, and persistence and provide job-embedded professional learning for teachers.

It will also give students more options to pursue their interests and aspirations. Students will be able to explore areas in demand, such as statistics and data science.

Finally, the Gates will invest in research and development to develop new tools and lead to breakthroughs that get translated into classroom practice.

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