Research into grouping by achievement, by academics from
Queen’s University Belfast and University College London, has found that nearly
a third of students in England were allocated to higher or lower maths sets
than their previous test performance implied.
The study, published in the British Educational Research Journal, analysed data from 9,301 Year 7 students at 46 secondary schools in England. The researchers compared which maths set the students would have been put in – based on Key Stage 2 maths test scores – with the sets they were actually placed in. Overall, they found that 31.1% of students were misallocated – placed in sets that were either higher or lower than their results at the end of primary school would have indicated.
Boys were slightly more likely to be misallocated to higher
sets in maths (16.7%) than lower sets (13.0%), whereas girls were more likely
to be misallocated to lower sets (17.9%) than higher sets (14.7%). Other
findings showed that:
Black students were 2.4 times more likely than
white students to be misallocated to a lower maths set.
Asian students were 1.7 times more likely than white
students to be misallocated to a lower maths set.
Female students were 1.53 times more likely than
males to be misallocated to a lower maths set.
White students were 2.09 times more likely than
black students to be misallocated to a higher maths set.
White students were 1.72 times more likely than
Asian students to be misallocated to a higher maths set.
Male students were 1.32 times more likely than females to be misallocated to a higher maths set.
Source: The misallocation of students to academic sets in maths: A study of secondary schools in England (June 2019) British Educational Research Journal
The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) has published the independent evaluation report of a trial of a maths-based learning app.
The “onebillion” programme consists of two maths learning apps, Maths 3–5 and Maths 4–6, that are designed to reinforce basic mathematical skills learned in the classroom. The apps are aimed at pupils aged 3–5 and 4–6 respectively and consist of mathematical activities organised around different topics such as counting, shape and measures. The trial, conducted by researchers at the University of Oxford, tested the impact of the apps on pupils in Year 2 who had been identified by their teachers as being in the bottom half of their class in maths at the start of the school year.
One hundred and thirteen schools from across England took
part in the randomised controlled trial. Schools in the intervention group used
the apps for half an hour, four days per week, for 12 weeks, in addition to
regular maths lessons. All children started with the Maths 3–5 app and
progressed to the Maths 4–6 app, once they had completed Maths 3–5. The
children’s use of the apps was monitored by teaching assistants who were
trained by a team from the University of Nottingham. Pupil achievement in maths
was measured using the Progress Test in Maths 6.
Pupils who received the programme made significant additional progress in maths (effect size = +0.24) compared to the control group. However, the trial also suggested that there may have been a negative impact (effect size = -0.10) on pupils eligible for free school meals (FSM) compared to those in the control group, though this finding was non-significant. The report advises that teachers or school leaders using onebillion should carefully monitor the impact on FSM pupils if implementing the approach.
Onebillion: Evaluation report (July 2019), Education
AmeriCorps is a US organisation that trains volunteers to serve the community in various civically-minded ways. A recent evaluation examined the effects on pupils’ maths achievement of training AmeriCorps volunteers to teach maths strategies to struggling maths pupils in grades 4–8 (Years 5–9). The volunteers used scripted protocols to teach three maths strategies to struggling pupils. Each strategy was studied in prior research and shown to have positive effects on achievement: concrete-representational-abstract, which uses concrete objects to teach concepts; cover-copy-compare, which teaches steps for computation and provides practice; and cognitive-strategy instruction, which teaches pupils to use procedures and reasoning to solve word problems.
AmeriCorps volunteers had to agree to a year-long, full-time commitment and received four days of training before starting the intervention, with additional training one and two months after. Each school received at least one volunteer from AmeriCorps, who was mentored by one school-staff member who was fully trained in the programme.
Subjects were 489 pupils in 150 Minnesota schools who were randomly assigned to either receive the intervention at the start of the school year (n=310), or to a control group who would receive the intervention a few months later (n=179). All pupils had scored below proficient in the prior year’s state maths assessment. During the intervention, pupil pairs with similar maths scores were to receive maths support for 90 minutes a week for a term. Post-tests using STAR Math were analysed two ways: the intent-to-treat analysis included all pupils who received the intervention, and showed significant positive effects as compared to the control group (effect size = +0.17); and the optimal dosage analysis that included pupils who received the targeted 12 weeks of intervention for at least an hour a week. Effect sizes for the experimental group increased to +0.24 when pupils were given the optimal dosage.
of a math intervention program implemented with community support (May 2019), Journal of Research on Educational
Effectiveness, DOI: 10.1080/19345747.2019.1571653
The Nuffield Foundation has published a systematic review by researchers at Ulster University that analyses the outcomes of classroom-based mathematical interventions.
The systematic review included studies that assessed the
outcomes of interventions aimed at improving maths achievement in primary
school children. Forty-five randomised controlled trials were included along
with thirty-five quasi-experimental studies. The studies were published between
2000 and 2017, and were mostly conducted in the US and Europe.
The results of the review suggest that there are effective
strategies teachers can use to help with learning maths and being fluent with
mathematical facts. It also found there are many different ways teachers can
support children to have a wide bank of strategies to complete mathematical
problems, and for children to know when is best to apply them. Technology in
the classroom can also be helpful as long as these tools have been developed
with a clear understanding of how children learn.
The report concludes that the evidence base on mathematical
interventions is weak, and recommends that researchers should test how
effective mathematical interventions are in order to help teachers support
to improve mathematical achievement in primary school-aged children. A systematic
review (June 2019), Nuffield Foundation
QuickSmart Numeracy is a 30-week maths tutoring programme from Australia that uses teaching assistants as tutors. Its goal is to increase basic maths fact automaticity/fluency in pupils in Year 4 and Year 8 who perform in the bottom third of their national cohort as measured on standardised testing, the premise being that increased maths fluency allows pupils to devote their concentration to maths concepts instead of fact recall. Researchers from the Teachers and Teaching Research Centre in the School of Education at the University of Newcastle, Australia, recently examined the effects of the programme on pupil achievement in a randomised controlled trial.
Subjects were 288 Year 4 and Year 8 pupils from 70 classrooms in 23 Sydney Catholic Schools in New South Wales who scored below the 30th percentile on national standardised testing. Baseline testing was done in March 2017 using the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) Progressive Achievement Test – Mathematics (PAT-M), with post-testing in May 2018, six months after the intervention ended in December 2017. There were no significant differences between the experimental and control groups at pre-test. Randomisation among pupils who qualified for tutoring was done in each class, with all pupils attending regular maths classes and pairs of experimental pupils being pulled from other classes to also receive half-an-hour of QuickSmart tutoring three times a week for 30 weeks.
Results showed a non-significant difference (+0.08) favouring
the experimental group in Year 4, and an effect size of +0.01 (n.s.) for Year
8. Authors noted that not all of the pupils received the targeted hours of
tutoring due to recruitment and testing processes.
The Institute for Effective Education (IEE) has published a new
report from a project funded by their Innovation Evaluation Grants. The IEE
Innovation evaluations are small-scale and test the kinds of innovations that
schools are interested in.
Thirty-four Year 4 classes took part in the evaluation of Improving times table fluency, which was conducted by Underwood West Academy. A total of 876 children were included in the study.
Five groups of four or five classes were created by matching the pre-test scores on a 25-item tables test and the percentage of children in receipt of pupil premium. All groups had similar pre-test scores and similar percentages of children in receipt of pupil premium. Each class used a different balance of conceptual and procedural activities during times tables lessons. Conceptual activities were games that focused on the connections and patterns in tables facts, while procedural activities were games in which pupils practised multiplication facts.
Pupils had four 15-minute times tables lessons each week, and the
intervention lasted for 12 weeks. Before the intervention started, all
participating pupils carried out a simple times tables test comprising 25
spoken multiplication questions. The same test was repeated as a post-test.
The results of the trial showed that no one balance of practice
activities was more effective than another. The report concludes that times
tables may be best taught by using a balanced approach – teaching both the
concepts behind them and practising them in a range of ways with low-stakes
Increasing times table fluency (May 2019), Institute
for Effective Education