Voqal believes the opportunity gap — the educational disparity and inequity that exists across racial and class lines — is the most pervasive problem in the U.S educational system. With this reality in mind, the Education Opportunity Project seeks to measurably reduce educational opportunity gaps by providing capital and strategic advice to entrepreneurs and organizations working to improve educational outcomes for disadvantaged populations. In this week’s 2020 annual report spotlight, we highlight the work of MathTalks and its founder Omo Moses to address this very issue.
Addressing Inequities through Math Literacy
Born in East Africa, MathTalk founder Omo Moses grew up in the Port neighborhood of Cambridge, Massachusetts, in the shadows of leading math and science institutions like Harvard and MIT. Moses, like most of the kids he grew up with, felt disconnected from the educational and economic opportunities these institutions afforded. In part, this disconnect stemmed from the failure of the local school system to prepare them to access these opportunities despite them being in their “backyard.” Even as young children, they felt that kids like them weren’t welcome in those spaces.
MathTalk was created to help young children, particularly those from economically distressed communities, develop positive math identities by creating regular opportunities to discover and interact with math in their daily lives, wherever they are. Omo’s initial inspiration for this work came from the activism of his parents, Robert and Janet Moses. Robert Moses, Omo’s father, was a civil rights leader, a MacArthur “Genius” Fellow, and founder of the Algebra Project, a math literacy initiative for children of color.
In his 2001 book, Radical Equations: Civil Rights from Mississippi to the Algebra Project, Robert Moses wrote, “I believe that the absence of math literacy in urban and rural communities throughout the country is an issue as urgent as the lack of registered voters in Mississippi was in 1961. I believe that solving the problem requires exactly the kind of community organizing that changed the South in the 1960s.”
While math wasn’t a subject Omo found particularly compelling growing up, he knew it was important to his perceptions of and ability to access future educational and economic opportunities. After becoming a dad himself, he became particularly interested in how he could build a positive relationship with his kids around learning math.
As Omo describes it, “I wanted us to learn math doing the things that we enjoy and love doing together. And so, for my son, math time happened when we were making breakfast. Math happened in the playground or in the park, and math happened when we rode trains.”
Ultimately, Omo hopes to show all parents that they, too, can have fun with their kids learning math — regardless of their own comfort level with the subject. That’s why MathTalk products and services are designed to inspire and equip every adult with tools and support that prompt high-quality early math experiences and conversations with children — even if their own familiarity with math is limited. Omo also reminds parents of their ability to push back and advocate for their children in more traditional school systems that may not be recognizing or encouraging their talents. These same systems also often fail to realize that parents have culturally relevant knowledge to offer. As a result of Omo’s childhood experiences, his experiences as a father, and as the founder of MathTalk, he believes it is vital to keep raising the bar and testing and expanding the limits of how much children’s minds can grow and what they’re capable of learning from an early age.
MathTalk grew out of Omo’s wish to help other families have positive, fun experiences with math in their everyday lives.
MathTalk is an educational technology company located in the greater Boston area, focusing on the research and design of early math products and services for parents, caregivers, teachers, and children. The company’s mission is to create unique opportunities for young children and their families, particularly those in economically distressed communities, to discover and enjoy math anywhere.
Voqal believes that educational opportunity gaps cannot be addressed without putting the power to improve educational outcomes in the hands of both students and parents. We are glad to be able to support leaders and organizations like Omo and MathTalk at the forefront of this movement and look forward to continued efforts to make math more accessible for all.
Download the full 2020 annual report here.