Mathematics is essential for everyday life and a foundation for careers in technology, science, and engineering, among many others. Improving the attainment of children in mathematics is a founding aim of the EEF and we have funded trials of many projects in this area in both primary and secondary schools, as well as in early years and post-16 settings.
We have published two guidance reports for mathematics, which summarise the best available evidence and make clear, actionable recommendations for teachers and practitioners: Improving Mathematics in the Early Years and Key Stage 1 and Improving Mathematics in Key Stages 2 and 3.
Our Toolkit provides evidence summaries for teaching and learning strategies – such as Metacognition and self-regulation and Feedback – that can be effectively applied to teaching maths.
Many secondary schools use ‘setting or streaming’ in maths – grouping students in classes according to their prior attainment – though the evidence suggests that this approach can widen attainment gaps. Schools which continue to group pupils by prior attainment should monitor carefully the impact that it has on all their pupils.
The results of EEF-funded projects focusing on maths provide useful evidence for schools looking to invest in specific interventions. There are six maths-focused projects listed as EEF Promising Projects which you can access below. Two promising projects that have been tested at efficacy and effectiveness level are:
Mathematical reasoning, which focused on teaching the logical principles of maths in Key Stage 1 and included resources and computer games. In our first trial it had a positive impact on maths outcomes for the pupils involved and teachers found the intervention straightforward to implement. The EEF funded a larger trial to test the implementation of the programme at scale, and there was a smaller but still positive impact. Together, these trials provide evidence for the effectiveness of Mathematical Reasoning.
Tutor Trust – Affordable Tutoring. The Tutor Trust provide affordable tuition to primary and secondary schools by recruiting and training university students as paid tutors. We ran a trial for Year 6 pupils in disadvantaged schools who were working below age-expected levels, and found students receiving tutoring from Tutor Trust made an additional 3 months progress compared to the control group. They currently work in Manchester, Leeds and Liverpool.
The EEF has brought together the best available evidence on maths teaching in two guidance reports: one guidance report focusing on the early years and key stage 1 and a guidance report focusing on Key Stages 2 and 3. These make evidence-based recommendations to support school leaders, teachers and practitioners to improve their practice. Both guidance reports were based on a review of the research evidence. The review for teaching in key stages 2 and 3 has been published here, and the review for teaching in early years and key stage 1 has been published here.
Other organisations have produced resources which summarise maths education research in a useful and accessible way:
The What Works Clearinghouse in the USA has produced a series of practice guides, which use the best available evidence regarding maths teaching to make recommendations for practice. While written for an American audience, WWC practice guides contain recommendations that will be useful in English schools. Practice guides are available for:
- Improving algebra knowledge
- Teaching maths to young children
- Improving mathematical problem solving
- Assisting students struggling with mathematics
- Encouraging girls in science and maths
The Nuffield Foundation has produced a useful website and accompanying book. These resources draw on the best available evidence about how pupils learn maths, which is different to the What Works Clearinghouse’s focus on the best available evidence regarding the teaching of maths.
The Cambridge Mathematics Espresso series offers research on mathematics education, expressly designed with teachers in mind.
Improving Mathematics in Key Stages 2 and 3