Cal Poly Pomona will host a conversation on Feb. 26 with civil rights leader Bob Moses, founder of the Algebra Project, and his daughter Maisha Moses. The organization’s mission is to “Use math literacy as an organizing tool to guarantee a quality public school education for all children in the United States.”
Moses found his daughter’s middle school math education to be lacking so he began providing algebra instruction to her and three other students. The Algebra Project grew out of that experience. He received a MacArthur Fellowship in 1982 that allowed him to support and expand the project.
His daughter, Maisha Moses, is now the executive director of the Young People’s Project which trains high school and college students to be math literacy workers.
In the 1960’s, Bob Moses directed the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee’s Mississippi Voter Registration Project. When a federal judge asked Moses why he was taking illiterate people to vote, Moses pointed out that “You can’t deny people the right to literacy and then say they can’t participate in politics because they’re illiterate.”
Likewise, denying people the right to math literacy sentences them to remain at the lower end of the economy because math skills are a requirement for college.
The idea of bringing Bob Moses to Cal Poly Pomona came from math Professor Robin Wilson. Wilson met Moses at a teacher’s conference and was invited to Jackson, Mississippi to see first-hand what the Algebra Project was about.
Inspired by Moses’ work and funded by an NSF grant, Wilson went on to develop high school math curriculum for three schools in Los Angeles with the goal of preparing the lowest performing students for college math.
Currently, Wilson is supporting math literacy in the local community by working with students at Pomona Hope Community Center. The effort is a collaboration with the University of La Verne. College students from CPP and the University of La Verne provide math instruction to middle school students and train high school students to lead workshops.
In January, Wilson invited Maisha Moses to the center where she provided a workshop for math literacy workers.
The Feb. 26 discussion will be moderated by Professor Wilson and Assistant Professor Analena Hassberg, ethnic and women’s studies.
Hassberg, who was on the event planning committee, emphasized the importance of this event.
“Contrary to popular belief, the movement for equality and civil rights is not encapsulated in a singular historical moment,” she said. “Rather, it is an ongoing and ever-evolving process that is as relevant today as it was in the 1950s and 60s.”
Wilson’s career has been motivated by the idea that “math literacy can be the key to unlocking the unlimited potential of disenfranchised communities.” His experience with the Algebra Project helped guide him in his career and he remains dedicated to ensuring that all have access to the opportunities and upward mobility that math literacy provides.
This event is part of the Campus Equity Dialogues Series, aiming to bring the campus community together to engage in dialogue on equity issues with experts from various fields. The event is sponsored by the Office of the President, the College of Science, the Office of Student Success, the Department of Ethnic and Women’s Studies, the Office of Student Life and Cultural Centers, and the African American Student Center.
This event is titled We the People: Math Literacy and the Past, Present, and Future of Civil Rights. It will be held in the Bronco Student Center, Ursa Major, on Wednesday, Feb. 26 from 3:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., followed by a reception from 5 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Please register on Eventbrite.