It’s about time someone started to show teachers the appreciation they deserve. And who better than multi-billionaire and math genius James Simons?
Since the 1980s, Simons has been applying his brilliance in mathematics to Wall Street, accruing a fortune ($22 billion dollars to be exact) via a hedge fund called Renaissance Technologies. A longtime PhD professor of math himself, Simons has a genuine respect for math, and for those who teach it. It’s because of this respect that he started Math for America, a program aimed at adding $15,000 to the salary of any math teacher who is accepted to it.
Though seemingly new, the roots of Math for America reach back to 1994 when the Simons Foundation, an organization similar in its goals, was founded by Simons and his wife Marilyn. Then in 2004, the, at first, deceptively named Math for America was created exclusively for math teachers in New York. By 2009, it had expanded to several other major cities, including Boston, Washington D.C., and Los Angeles. It currently aids 800 teachers, and will be available to 1,000 teachers in the year to come.
The admission of 200 more teachers to the program proves that Simons is either a man of naturally impeccable timing or that he’s paying attention to what’s going on in the world of scholastics. The average salary of teachers in the United States ranges from approximately $34,000 to $56,000 dollars, depending on the state. Already staggeringly low in this day and age, those salary numbers are a 1.3% decrease from thirteen years ago. That along with inflation proves that teachers could use the financial boost more than ever.
You might be wondering at this point how one becomes eligible to receive the benefits Math for America offers. Well, it’s really quite simple: they just have to be talented math teachers. Being admitted as a member of the MfA Fellowship, as it’s called, is less determined by test scores, and more by demonstrating a deep understanding of math and a passion for communicating its wonders to others. While that might sound like an overly subjective set of criteria, it’s pretty easy for someone like James Simons who has walked the walk for so many years to decide who is truly worthy of his dough.
Simons is so dedicated to his cause that for the past six years or so, it has been his sole professional focus. He has stopped all teaching and other business endeavors, using his wealth as a comfortable cushion from which to proffer generous rewards to hardworking and deserving individuals. It’s inspiring to see someone with so much monetary clout use their power for good. Instead of using his fortune to manufacture and perpetuate greed, James Simons chooses to use it to better our country’s educational system; a profound and thoughtful gesture that will be remembered by Academia for years to come.