What We Do
Gentle Knowledge is a unique collaboration between mathematicians and educators, with experience both in the US and abroad, who have identified the main reasons behind the widening gap between what schools teach and what global competition demands.
Unlike other programs that focus exclusively on computational fluency (basic arithmetic and algebra skills) and test preparation to the detriment of a real problem-solving education, we teach students to solve the kinds of problems that best prepare them for the real world outside of standardized tests. Success on standard metrics like the SAT and regular school work is a natural byproduct of this approach because students who learn to tackle nonstandard problems, become logical thinkers, and lose their fear of the unexpected can easily handle simple exercises that constitute the latest trend in test-based assessment.
Instead of preparing students only for short-term results and nearsighted goals, we look ahead at what they need to know to succeed in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) professions and incorporate the necessary prerequisites into our methodology. The single most important such prerequisite is the ability to think abstractly, to generalize problem solving methods in novel situations.
As part of our commitment to teaching problem solving, we teach other vital 21st century skills like computer programming. Our goal is to leave our students with a toolset that they can use throughout their education and later in their careers regardless of whether or not they ultimately pursue STEM professions.
Gentle Knowledge has its roots in an old Eastern European problem-solving tradition that values creativity and critical and lateral thinking above mindless pattern memorization. It is in part a descendant of the Gelfand Correspondence Program in Mathematics, which at its height in the 1970s reached over 40,000 students all over the former USSR and, among other achievements, helped improve the quality of mathematics education in the most remote regions and in the weakest schools in the country.
Our mission remains to gently elevate the level of mathematical competence of students and teachers without undermining the role of schools. Among the changes we have made is adopting our methodology to the specific needs of an American audience and embracing the role of technology without violating our core principles (outlined below).
Key Principles of Our Approach
- Changing the “either you get it or you don’t” culture and breaking down the negative stereotypes surrounding school mathematics to reduce fear among students who perceive themselves as weak and to challenge those who want to progress beyond the standard school curriculum.
- Achieving computational fluency as soon as possible and practicing it alongside more advanced and exciting topics.
- Leading students to discover mathematical ideas and problem-solving techniques on their own through an inquiry-based or Socratic approach.
- Enriching the standard school mathematics topics and making sure that students understand the origins of concepts as well as their connections to each other, especially when textbooks and schools fail to emphasize this.
- Exploring the beautiful world of mathematics and science that lies within reach of students — but just beyond the standard school curriculum — through problems, hands-on activities, games, and guest lectures.
- Helping students become technology creators, not just technology users, by teaching the basics of computer programming, algorithms, and rudimentary engineering principles.
- Conveying the importance of precise communication skills and giving students the opportunity to practice those skills while making logical arguments and catching and correcting flawed ones.
- Opening the doors to mathematical competitions and accessible research and engineering projects for the most ambitious and motivated students.