$5,000 ISDDE Prize for Excellence in Educational Design

To Robert “Bob” Moses (1935-2021)

In 2023, the International Society for Design and Development in Education (ISDDE) hosted their annual conference in Boston Massachusetts. The theme of the conference was Designing for Equity and Social Justice: Creating New Futures. It is fitting, therefore, that the society makes a prestigious Lifetime achievement award for Excellence in Educational Design to Robert “Bob” Moses (1935-2021).

Bob was an active and strong force in the civil rights movement for many decades and linked this to his professional work as a designer of excellent resources to support mathematics learning. In the 1980s, with a MacArthur Foundation fellowship, Bob founded the Algebra Project during a critical period of mathematics reform in the United States. Drawing on his experiences in Mississippi during the 1960s, he argued that without a strong foundation in STEM, and in mathematics in particular, Black students would not have access to higher education and high paying jobs that support families and communities. For this reason, Bob described the Algebra Project as “first and foremost a community organizing project rather than a traditional program of school reform”.

The Algebra Project curriculum consists of materials in pre-Algebra, Algebra I, Geometry, and Algebra II, and is intended to bring students to the point where they’re ready to study and engage in advanced mathematics in high school and in college or career. Drawing on the power of student discussion, in both small and large groups is central to the Algebra Project classroom experience and teachers are supported with the challenges that such an approach makes through the “Five-Step Curricular Process” that is central to the accompanying professional development program. His goal was to give students a lived experience of the meaning-making of abstract mathematical thinking. His program aimed to build students’ abilities to think in generative ways about mathematical situations and objects, but also at the same time aimed to expand their identities as thinkers and doers in mathematics and beyond.

Not only did Bob’s lifetime of educational design impact generations of young learners of mathematics, it also has had profound influence on many mathematics educators over the years. A recent memorial notice of the American Mathematical Society draws on the thoughts and experiences of just a small number of these who pay tribute to Bob’s tireless pursuit of mathematical literacy as a civil right for all public school children.

ISDDE, through the award of the Prize for Excellence in Educational Design, wishes to recognize how as designers we can aim high in terms of the wider outcomes of learning. Knowledge is fundamental to all educational design, but we can also aim to ensure individual lives are enhanced in ways that can make society more equitable and inclusive. This is exactly what Bob achieved through his design and ISDDE wishes to both recognize this and support those who worked with him on his lifetime’s project.


You can find out more about the Algebra Project at: https://algebra.org/wp/

The full American Mathematical Society obituary notice can be found at: https://www.ams.org/journals/notices/202302/noti2629/noti2629.html?adat=February%202023&trk=2629&galt=none&cat=interest&pdfissue=202302&pdffile=rnoti-p258.pdf