The Algebra Project

The Algebra Project grew directly out of Bob Moses’ work in Mississippi. The operating principle is that just as people at the bottom levels of society in Mississippi require access to the right to vote to gain political power and access to full U.S. citizenship, young people need access to algebra to gain full citizenship in the 21st Century. Bob Moses believed that math literacy is as vital in the 21st Century as reading and writing were in the 20th Century and all three literacies are necessary. Algebra is the key to math literacy, and devising structured opportunities to support students, teachers, and the people who work with them, in order to secure math literacy for all young people - particularly those in under-resourced schools - has been the focus of The Algebra Project since the early 1980s. 

In this interview from 2012, Bob explains the importance of experiential learning and its relationship to Algebra Project pedagogy.

Robert P Moses – The Algebra Project: Theory and Practice. A video interview with Bob Moses, by Judith Greene of the Steinhardt School of Education at New York University.

Posthumously published, this last op-ed were Bob’s final words on the importance of rethinking how we as a nation conceptualize education, and our commitment to young people and to the teachers that work with them.

Op-Ed by Bob Moses, posthumously published by The Imprint, 8/24/2021, Returning to ‘Normal’ in Education is Not Good Enough.

Bob Moses
Bob Moses

Returning to ‘Normal’ in Education is Not Good Enough

As a nation, we stand with bated breath — waiting for public schools to reopen and for “a return to normal” while ignoring that for many, normal is not only not good enough, it was also never really good.

Historical inequities and disparities in our public schools, as across all our public systems, operate along 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. Just like the right to vote in the 20th century, the lack of equal access to a quality education in the 21st century threatens to limit the future life choices for too many young people.

As a nation, the time has come to embrace quality education as the constitutional right that it should be, guaranteeing that all young people have full access to the social, economic and political opportunities that a democracy promises its people. But nothing will change for these children and youth if we continue to rely on federal education policies that emphasize rigid testing and punitive accountability structures, while paying little attention to ensuring that teachers are well supported, and that all students have access to high-quality structured opportunities to learn.


History keeps talking back to us, if only we would listen. Mandating improved achievement without providing the resources to accomplish it has failed to ensure equitable opportunities. This pattern of under-resourcing and underserving local schools in communities where there are children and families who most need public education to work, and work well, is not the return to the “normal” we need.

But rather than a piecemeal state-by-state approach, states need the federal government to take leadership and make up for past injustice. We need Congress to hear community voices and level the playing field for them by investing directly in those schools and districts most in need. Join me in asking President Biden, Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, and your congressional leaders to stand with students being left behind, the teachers who work with them, and education advocates crying for justice for them to champion a federal civil rights bill for education, akin to the Civil Rights Act of 1957.

Like that historic bill, the 14th Amendment offers a constitutional platform for bold legislation to promote and protect education as a civil right, rectifying the structural inequities that have resulted in the existing disparities in our public schools, inequities that keep paying tragic dividends for children and their families on every front.


Since the civil rights movement, when I fought for the right to vote, it has been clear to me that limiting access to education is a subtext of efforts to suppress civil rights. In 1963, as field secretary with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), I was registering sharecroppers in Mississippi to vote. A federal judge asked us why we were registering illiterates, the implication being that it did not make sense to register the uneducated, just as it did not make sense to teach those who were enslaved to read a generation earlier.

What’s math got to do with it? — you ask. Everything, I say.

In the ’60s, voting was our organizing tool to demolish Jim Crow and achieve political impact. Since then, for me, it has been algebra. What’s math got to do with it? — you ask. Everything, I say.

Amidst the planet-wide transformation we are undergoing, from industrial to information-age economies and culture, math performance has emerged as a critical measure of equal opportunity. We can see the collateral damage of inequities in math education in the way that students are tracked into dead-end math courses and how that tracking is then used to deny them other opportunities because they cannot demonstrate the required math competencies on standardized tests. Simply look at how the failure to complete math requirements is strongly correlated with not completing either high school or post-secondary education.


Math also can be a collateral opportunity. By elevating math, alongside reading and writing, as an essential literacy, we can substitute the old pre-COVID-19 normal for a new one, where students get the space they need to operate as active problem solvers and claim their place inside information-age technologies and economies. But, like happiness, education must be pursued. Students and teachers currently encapsulated in the inequities and disparities of the current public education system, like the sharecroppers before them, must be deeply involved in crafting the opportunity structures that will be needed to deliver 21st century math literacy. The nation needs a federal civil rights bill for education, one that opens up the funding and policies needed to assure full access for all students who are currently being left out of the critical literacies that will be required to thrive in the 21st century.


These videos can offer a glimpse inside the Algebra Project Classroom, and into the lives of those Bob touched.

CUE Lunch & Learn – Remembering Bob Moses (January 2022)

The Center for Urban Education (CUE) at the University of Pittsburgh, Remembering Bob Moses: His Life and Legacy Lunch & Learn – video archive: January 27, 2022 panel with Maisha Moses, Albert Sykes & Cliff Freeman:

Lifetime Dedicated to Social Justice and Equity

NCTM 11/17/21 Award Ceremony Video Archive: Lifetime Dedicated to Social Justice and Equity, Bob Moses, Founder & President in memoriam, the Algebra Project:


Math Literacy as a 21st Century Civil Right

Video presented to National Council of Teachers of Mathematics annual meeting closing plenary, Saturday, May 1, 2021

Practitioner’s Use of the 5-Step Curricular Process

Watch >

We the People

Math Literacy for All Alliance July 2019 conference and public briefing on Capitol Hill



File NameLink
Algebra Project's Logic ModelDownload
The Algebra Project: Organizing in the Spirit of EllaDownload
Resources: AP Product Efficacy Argument 2014Download
Resources: Computer Programming and Middle School MathematicsDownload
Resources: Supporting Orality and Computational Thinking In MathematicsDownload

More information on The Algebra Project

The Algebra Project’s website
The Algebra Project on Facebook
The Algebra Project on Twitter

Visit the SNCC Digital Gateway for additional information, documents, and sources for The Algebra Project.