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Amazon Takes on Students’ Math Animosity

Nonprofits and the online company join forces in a national initiative to break students' fear of math.

by Angel Gonzalez, The Seattle Times / February 3, 2016

(TNS) -- Amazon.com is launching a national movement to eradicate the fear math imparts in many U.S. students.

The initiative orbits around the slogan "With Math I Can" and an eponymous website. It was developed by an Amazon division devoted to providing tech-based resources for K-12 education. TenMarks, an online math instruction company that Seattle-based Amazon bought in late 2013, is getting top billing in the campaign's launch: Amazon says that teachers using that company's services helped inspire the initiative.

The campaign wants to change the way students think about their frustrations with math, a subject that more than half of young adults say they're not good at.

Instead of saying "I'm not good at math," Amazon wants these students to pledge to say, "I will learn from my mistakes" or "I will persevere at math," and to adopt what the company calls a "growth mindset," focusing more on the embracing the process of learning than on concrete success at solving individual problems.

The website will offer what Amazon calls a "powerful set of free resources" for teachers. There's no ad campaign involved, although Amazon will do a big push in social media and has an accompanying video.

In addition, Amazon enrolled several nonprofits devoted to education, such as the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, ASCD (formerly known as the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development) and Character Lab. Two school districts in California and one in New Jersey have also hopped on board.

Amazon didn't disclose how much it cost to set up the initiative.

The move comes amid wider concerns amid government officials and technology industrialists about the adaptability of the U.S. workforce to an economy where manufacturing jobs have given way to positions requiring more complex math and science skills.

Last week, President Obama proposed spending more than $4 billion over three years to increase student exposure to computer science.

©2016 The Seattle Times, distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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