A Bold Initiative to Develop Breakthrough Solutions in Executive Function and Math

In 2018, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) began jointly exploring whether breakthrough education solutions can be developed through an accelerated discovery and development effort. It began with a Request for Information.

We received 465 responses from 37 states as well as internationally. Twenty percent (20%) of the responses came from organizations that are owned or led by people of color. Concepts were bold, inspirational and inclusive.

For further background reading on this effort, please consult this detailed overview of the RFI, and this synthesis report sharing what we learned

These ideas prompted both philanthropies to imagine the potential of using an inclusive discovery and development approach that places educators at the center. What if educators, researchers and developers could co-design and then rapidly iterate on solutions together?

We then asked nearly 1,000 educators what they need to be successful. We heard that they are eager to play a role in designing solutions that work for students across many classroom contexts.

The educators proposed working in teams that would produce models, practices, tools and other resources designed to achieve specific, measurable, and equitable improvements in student outcomes (both academic and non-academic) across a range of education contexts.

This work culminated in a total commitment of $50 million over five years, funded in equal parts by both philanthropies, to support the EF+Math Program. The EF+Math Program is a bold initiative to fund approaches through inclusive discovery and development that will dramatically increase positive math outcomes for students in grades 3-8, with a particular focus on students who have been traditionally underserved.

This program is equity-focused, research-informed and designed with educators at the center.

Have a question?

For specific questions, please contact us at EducationRD@chanzuckerberg.com. We will do our best to respond to individual requests.

Key Dates

This RFI is now closed.


CZI and BMGF are requesting information on the current state-of-the-art and bold evidence- or strong-theory-grounded visions for new, ambitious developments in the program areas listed below. The included links provide in-depth information on each program area.

1. Improving Writing: Developing the Requisite Habits, Skills, and Strategies
2. Improving Mathematical Understanding, Application, and Related Mindsets
3. Measuring and Improving Executive Function

  • We welcome all promising ideas for how to use existing and new knowledge and tools to achieve dramatic results against the challenges we describe.
  • We encourage responses from individuals, groups, or collaborations both inside and outside the education community, including but not limited to practitioners, universities, university-affiliated research centers, not-for-profit research institutions, professional development organizations, government-sponsored labs, and public and private companies.  International applicants are also encouraged to respond.
  • We anticipate potential future programs to be composed of diverse teams of experts and developers across a wide spectrum of disciplines, including those not typically involved in education research.

Deadline: Friday, June 8th, 5:00pm PST

Click here to begin a response in the Response Portal.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where can I find the recorded version of the webinar?
The video can be found here. The slides used during the webinar can be found here.

I have videos and hyperlinks I would like to share with my submission. Is that allowed?
Given the volume of RFI submissions, we can only evaluate submissions in the written format we requested and are unable to review submissions where the abstracts and other written content are solely hyperlinks or videos. However, we welcome your inclusion of hyperlinks that provide examples of your work in the body of a written submission. We also provide the option for you to upload two graphics as part of your response.

Are you only looking for research ideas? Do you want to hear from non-researchers?
We are looking for good ideas from across the entire spectrum and welcome non-research ideas. Our goal is to create solutions that create dramatic improvements over current practice. We highly encourage non-researchers, including those who do not currently work in the education sector, to submit your ideas.

When you think about “dramatic” improvements, do you see that as necessarily being driven by a breakthrough technology, or might an evidence-based pedagogical innovation (that may include non-breakthrough technology) that causes significant learning outcomes be of equal interest?
We are agnostic as to the blend of technology and non-technology approaches. Individual pieces of the solution may not be breakthrough innovations themselves, but lead to dramatic improvements when combined with other approaches.

Are you interested in early childhood (Pre-K) strategies as well as K-12?

You say you are also looking at technology. Does this include games, VR, AR, chatbots, biosensors etc.
Yes, again we are not limiting the ideas being submitted. Send us your best ideas, even if they are not standalone solutions.

I’m a teacher and have a great idea. Can I respond to this RFI?
Yes, we highly encourage educators to respond. We believe that successful solutions will only be created by including ideas from those who work directly with students.

We don’t work in education, but our solution could be used to improve education products. Do you want to hear from us?
Yes, we are looking for innovative ideas from both inside and outside the education industry.

We are a for profit company. Should we submit?
Yes, we welcome submissions from for-profit entities. We ask that you please do not submit proprietary information for this RFI, but we seek your help in identifying both state-of-the-art and state-of-the-possible in these program areas.

What is executive function?
Executive function skills are the cognitive processes that enable us to plan, focus attention, remember instructions, and juggle multiple tasks successfully. Just as an air traffic control system safely manages the arrivals and departures of many aircraft on multiple runways, the brain needs this skill set to plan and manage thoughts. Executive Function allows people to think critically, give considered responses rather than impulsive ones, resist temptations, resist distractions, and stay focused.

What grade levels are you targeting?
For all three program areas, we welcome responses with ideas or solutions focused anywhere from early childhood through the transition to post-secondary education.

Is this a request for proposals or applications?
No, this is not a request for proposals or applications for funding.  This is a request for information for promising approaches in math, writing and executive function. This is not a funding announcement — it will help us understand how to support future work.

May I submit multiple entries for the same program area?
Yes, you may submit multiple entries either individually or in collaboration with others.  While we encourage you to consolidate related ideas/projects into a single submission, if you feel that your ideas/projects warrant separate submissions, you are welcome to do so. Please note that if your subsequent submissions have different collaborators from those in your original profile, you will need to complete your first submission before you can update your profile to start your next submission.

Are submissions welcome from outside the United States?  Are these program areas restricted to ideas that would only impact students in the United States?
We welcome submission of innovative ideas from anywhere in the world.

I’m not currently affiliated with a company or research organization.  How should I list my affiliation for this proposal?
Please list your most relevant current affiliation.  You may list “self” if you are not currently affiliated with any entity.  We encourage responses from individuals, groups, or collaborations both inside and outside the education community, including but not limited to practitioners, universities, university-affiliated research centers, not-for-profit research institutions, professional development organizations, government-sponsored labs, and public and private companies.

When is the Request for Information (RFI) due?
All responses to the RFI must be submitted by 5:00pm PST on Friday, June 8th, 2018.

Can I start my RFI and come back to work on it?
Yes. The RFI submission system will allow you to save your work as you progress, return to it, and submit when you are ready.

Can I respond to the RFI with collaborating organizations/individuals?
Yes, up to four organizations/individuals may respond to the RFI together. We will ask you to list and provide demographic and contact information for each collaborating organization/individual.

Is a female-owned or led organization considered a minority-owned or led organization?
We are using the federal/Small Business Administration definition, which lists female-led organizations as a separate category from minority-led organizations. We are not collecting data on the gender of the applicant organization’s leadership at this stage.

Can I respond to more than one program area?
Yes, you may submit to one, two, or all three program areas as they are applicable to your work.

Does my submission have to address the entire program area?
No, responses only need to address components critical for the overall success of the program area’s goals. However, we welcome comprehensive submissions.

What if my idea to address one of these program areas deviates from the RFI?
The program area descriptions in the RFI are only a general guide. You are welcome to present new ideas and perspectives that are not covered in the RFI language, but are critical for the success of the program goals.

What length of responses are you expecting?
There are five major questions in the RFI for which we have provided word limits. The total word limit per program area you are responding to is equivalent to approximately four pages of text.

Can I include any graphics or visuals to support my RFI submission?
If you have a graphic or other visual representation you would like to submit to support your project idea, you may submit a single attachment that is no more than two pages per response.

Who will be reviewing the RFI responses?
Staff from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI). We are also planning to engage external experts including educators, administrators, researchers, and developers for their opinions and advice.

Will what I submit be kept confidential?
Submissions may be shared rapidly with outside experts. We ask that you do NOT submit confidential information, since it will not remain so through this RFI process. Ultimately, any projects or grants that may emerge later will incorporate ways to preserve Intellectual Property – any such ideas at this stage should be submitted in a form that does not yet require confidentiality or protection. We plan to share aggregated and anonymized learnings from the RFI with the respondents and the field to further inform future program development. Knowing that RFIs often lead to many great ideas that any entity is unable to support on its own, we also intend to share RFI responses with other funders.

Will I receive feedback on my submission?
No, given the volume of responses anticipated, we will not be able to provide feedback on individual submissions.

Do I need to respond to the RFI to qualify for any potential future funding related to these topics?

What is Pasteur’s Quadrant and how does it apply here?
Instead of thinking about research as being either basic or applied, Pasteur’s Quadrant is an alternative that collapses the distinction by conducting basic research towards a specific and applied goal. The result is a program that progresses to the ultimate solution by answering key questions along the way. Programs managed within Pasteur’s Quadrant are typically flexible and change as new things are learned during development.

How are you addressing FERPA and data privacy protections?
A critical part of this RFI is to identify privacy and ethical issues associated with these topics. Simply complying with the law is the baseline – and we intend to go above and beyond to protect and ensure privacy. We ask that you do not submit any personally identifiable information.

We consider all laws and regulations to be a baseline for action, and will expect any partners or applicants to go above and beyond to ensure that privacy will be protected. Strict adherence to education data laws will foster trust and collaboration among intermediaries and their schools, districts, or other relevant parties.

For more information on our data principles view the Bill & Melinda Gates Data Stewardship Principles and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative Education Privacy Principles.

Should we include practitioners in our discussions?
We highly encourage coordination with practitioners for this RFI although it is not a requirement. We believe successful solutions require the inclusion of educators, students, and parents, not just researchers and developers. We believe including practitioners is key to understanding what will work successfully in the classroom.


Please click here to watch a recording of our webinar from May 22nd, 2018, where we addressed live questions from potential responders.

Slides from the webinar are available for download here.

Have a question?

For specific questions, please contact us at EducationRD@chanzuckerberg.com. We will do our best to respond to individual requests.

Key Dates

This RFI is now closed.