There is a math crisis in America. By middle school, two-thirds of our students will fall behind grade level in their math classes. By high school graduation, fewer than half will be prepared for college-level courses. And yet, success in math remains a powerful gatekeeper–the door not only to coursework and college but also careers in science, medicine, technology, and engineering. Equally powerful is the myth that math skills are fixed and inborn: the idea, persistent across decades, that some students are good at math, and that those who aren’t can’t be taught.
The film takes aim at this belief, asking why so little progress has been made to make even basic math accessible to all students. Drawing on the innovative ideas of experts like Stanford professor Jo Boaler, civil rights leader Dr. Robert Moses, UC Berkeley Professor Alan Schoenfeld, DePaul University Professor Akihito Takahashi, and Mills College Professor Catherine Lewis, the film examines how our traditional approach to math education favors rote performance over problem-solving and imitation over creativity–even among high-achieving students.
Beyond examining the roots of our math crisis, The Gatekeeper follows the stories of passionate educators who are working to create more engaging, effective and equitable methods for teaching math. It creates a vivid portrait of what powerful math classrooms look and sound like, and it advocates for change through the use of success stories and collaboration rather than critique.
By shining a spotlight on the groundbreaking work being done by bold educators across the country, The Gatekeeper points us toward a new reality: a classroom where every student can succeed at math.