Educational Politics & Policy

(2) The Great Stagnation, Part 1: An Immovable Object?

Anyone from 1900 would find most of modern life unrecognizable.

“What’s that thing flying in the sky? What is this glowing object showing me moving pictures that talk? Where is that carriage’s horse? Why aren’t children dying from Polio? Why are women and blacks voting? What do you mean ‘open heart surgery’, are you stark raving mad? What are ‘nuclear’ bombs? Where is all this clean water coming from? Why is your outhouse inside the building? What’s ‘space travel’? AND HOW CAN A POT COOK FOOD INSTANTLY?”

But that same time traveler could walk into any school, especially a high school, and say, “Ah, yes, the young ones have one teacher. The students rotate among classes organized by discipline and grade bands until they graduate, then the smart ones go to university lectures. A lot of people hate math. This is just the way I remember it!”

And you would largely the same reaction if you were to walk into your your old schools, whether you graduated 10 years ago or 80 years ago.

Education is incredibly stagnant. By and large, we take it for granted that there will be no major innovations in the field. Why?

Bill Gates spent billions of dollars trying to transform education in the US. How did he assess his efforts?

“There’s no dramatic change.” ~ Bill Gates Photo Credit: Thomas Hawk

Of course, he’s not the only one to try. After countless reforms, elections, “Class Clowns”, presidents, premiers, panels, education ministers and secretaries, commissions, budgets, studies, academic articles, books, school boards, new buildings, charter schools, private schools, independent schools, vouchers, computers, networks, videos, online classes, correspondence classes, programs, philosophies, policies, curricula, standards, tests, textbooks, textbook versions, websites, Web 2.0, MOOCs, tinkering, and fads and trends of every type… the reality is that the vast majority of educational systems work the same way they did 100 years ago.

I bet military trainers would be familiar with training methods from 5000 years ago.

From grassroots organizations to heads of state and totalitarian dictators, from committed teachers to billionaire CEOs, educational systems are impervious to them all.

With the exception of literacy, there has been no breakthrough in pedagogy in thousands of years. Why?

Even incremental improvements are hard to sustain.

Have you ever heard a university say: “We eliminated selective admission because, over the past century, our teaching methods have improved by 1%/year. We can now do a great job of educating any high school graduate.” Of course not. How about from selective private schools, any elementary school, any corporate training program, or any organization at all, ever, even yours?

I’m guessing you haven’t.

Why not?

Quality controls have greatly improved manufacturing. Computers are way better and easier to use than they were 20 years ago. Television and movies are better than ever. The cost of air travel and even space travel have decreased dramatically. Nobody wants to go back to the medical practices of 1820 because today’s are unrecognizably better.

But, at the moment, your children’s education is on track to look a lot like your grandparents’ education.

Why is education so hard to improve?

This blog series will begin to answer that question and outline how Bravo Math Inc will, at long last, disrupt these millennia-old norms.

In Part 1, I’ve described a level of stagnation not even approached in any other area of life.

Part 2 will enumerate many pernicious and prevalent falsehoods of education.

Part 3 will describe how mastery should be measured. And, no, it’s not about evidence of learning.

Part 4 will explain the self-reinforcing nature of educational practices.

Part 5 will outline Bravo Math’s plans to bust the status quo and unleash epic change.

And, hopefully some time around 2030, all these posts will be viewed as prophetic.

We’ll see. 🙂

Bravo Math News

(1) The Bravo Math Manifesto – Short Form

Bravo Math does the “impossible” in math education.

We exhibit the following values: Courage, Honesty, Learning, Merit

Mission “Impossible”: Get 5,000 diverse students in Vancouver enjoying math 5 years above grade-level by June 30, 2025. Make this an earthquake in the world of education.

When we achieve this mission, students of every background will arrive early to our lessons and ask if they can start right away. They will engage so intensely with math that they wouldn’t notice an ice cream truck crashing through the wall. They will beg to stay after lesson time is over and then ask for homework when we kick them out. They will do our math activities in their spare time, then go beyond that by showing us incredible new math activities, which they find and create themselves. They’ll decorate their bedrooms with math paraphernalia, from eye-catching graphs and geometry to equations and pictures of mathematicians.

They will transform from apprehensive remedial math students to inspiring peer tutors who tell their tutees “You can do this, too!” They will ask to bring their friends, which will help us raise an army of grade 5 students who love grade 10 math. The habits and confidence they obtain from this experience will transform their lives.

Parents, teachers, academics, journalists, and skeptics will observe our lessons and be blown away. Parents will give unsolicited feedback about how they cannot believe the change they see in their children. Journalists, researchers, and skeptics of all types will investigate and determine that our work is the biggest breakthrough in education in ages.

As people rave about Bravo Math, we will receive a flood of demand. To meet that demand, we will build a vibrant and enduring company for which we love to work.

Our compounding successes will galvanize sweeping innovation in educational systems around the world – and, at long last, the vast untapped potential in all of us will finally be in plain sight.


More details coming. Stay tuned.

Thank you to Jim Collins and Jerry Porhas for the framework used here.

Bravo Math News

(0) Welcome to the Bravo Math Blog!

Which looks more amazing: the coastline or my sunglasses? Tough call. Let me know what you think.

My name is Andrew Uyeno. I’m the owner of Bravo Math Inc. and I’ve been tutoring math full time for 10 years. Now, I’m ready to transition from tutor to math education revolutionary. It’s time to shake up a stagnant field.

This blog will document that journey. It will be my contribution to the MTBOS, covering the nerdy details of math pedagogy, the insidious obstacles to educational progress, to the world of startups, and work-life balance. When I’m disciplined, expect something like Paul Graham’s Essays. When less disciplined, expect a poorly edited stream of consciousness.

Reach out at or comment here. I’ll respond to all thoughtfulness.