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LEMA -Literacy Education and Math Lab

64% of 798M illiterate adults in the world are women. Yet we know that a child born to a woman that can read is 50% more likely to survive past the age 5 and that a mother that talks, reads and singings to children from the moment they are born, provides a strong foundation for learning. The Literacy Education and Math Labs in the context of this challenge, will serve expecting mothers and mothers of children 0-5 to provide fundamental tools for lifelong learning and skills that are transferable to their children. LEMAs use a set of games that we have developed and tested in 3 decades of work. The workbooks contain relevant parenting information. LEMAs use play as a catalyst for learning and can take place anywhere: parks, homes, etc.

Photo of Catalina González
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The LEMAs use the learning games we have carefully designed, structured and tested across three decades of work, in a variety of social contexts and with diverse populations. The author of these games, Javier González Quintero, has achieved international recognition for his work and innovation as an Ashoka Fellow and a Schwab Social Entrepreneur. The original version of the game is in Spanish, with adaptations to Portuguese, English, Four Mayan Languages and we are currently working on the French version. To date, close to a million people (children, youth and adults) in 10 countries, have learned to read, write and think mathematically with our games.

Who will benefit from this idea and where are they located?

Low income communities potentially at a global scale. So far we have developed programs in 10 countries. Most of our work has been in Latin America, we are now exploring India, Africa and the United States. There is potential to create jobs for women, who will be trained as Learning Coaches. This will allow them to attend children in the community, supporting the efforts of the schools and their teachers, to ensure all children learn reading, writing and math; fundamental skills to succeed in school and in life.

How could you test this idea in a quick and low-cost way right now?

1. Adapt materials to culture, context and target population 2. Partner with local organization with strong community base and social focus 3. Provide training to Facilitators or Learning Coaches

What kind of help would you need to make your idea real?

-Interested and willing community partner -Funds to provide materials, training, monitoring and evaluation

Is this an idea that you or your organization would like to take forward?

  • Yes. I am looking for partners that might be interested in taking this idea forward in their communities.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Chioma Ume

Hi Catalina,

Thank you for sharing this idea! Do you have a sense of where in the world you'd like to try and replicate it? How could you go about determining another location where this kind of intervention could be accessible and would fit the needs of the population?

Looking forward to hearing more,


Photo of Catalina González

Hi Chioma. Latin America is a context we are very familiar with. We are now exploring India and Immigrant and Refugee Populations in the US. The Red Cross has been working on a small pilot with ROM communities in Spain. We see lots of potential to expand to Haiti, Mali and other French Speaking countries. Besides strong partners, we also need funding. So those two factors, determine in a big way our decisions.

Photo of Chioma Ume

Hi Catalina,

Sorry for my late reply, this is very interesting! How have you had to adapt the games for the US and Spanish populations? Did any of the reactions to the games surprise you and your team? What methods do you use to attract parents to participate in your programs?

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