Increasing Competence and Confidence in Algebra and Multiplicative Structures (ICCAMS)

ICCAMS is designed to teach two mathematical areas that are a key part of the Key Stage 3 curriculum, but which cause particular problems to students – algebra and multiplicative reasoning (e.g., percentages and proportions). The programme is comprised of 40 evidence-informed lessons and extensive teacher professional development. The lessons are designed to help teachers use formative assessment in maths, helping teachers to identify the problems pupils struggle with and how to address them. Activities are set in contexts that pupils can engage with, are collaborative, and use visual representations to help deepen understanding.

A team at University of Nottingham led by Professor Jeremy Hodgen will develop the existing ICCAMS materials and create a two-year CPD package consisting of 9 days of training and support in between. The recruitment of schools to the trial, and the training and support for locally-based trainers, will be carried out by Durham University, led by Victoria Menzies. The trial itself will be an “effectiveness trial” to assess the potential and impact of delivering the intervention independently of the developers, as well as its suitability for scalability and wider roll-out.

Two Year 7 Maths teachers will be trained, and will be expected to work with other maths teachers in Key Stage 3 to embed the approach in their school for at least two years. 

The ICCAMS team are working in collaboration with NCETM and the Maths Hubs. Nine Maths Hubs will support the delivery of ICCAMS intervention during the trial.

Why are we funding it?

ICCAMS was developed as a part of an ESRC-funded project. This included a longitudinal national survey of Year 9 students, which demonstrated the need for the approach. The survey found that there had been a decline in students’ understanding since the mid-1970s in both algebra and ratios.

ICCAMS was evaluated in 2010, with 22 teachers and 600 Year 8 students taking part in a matched controlled trial. Students in the intervention group made greater progress than those in the control group, which the developers claim is equivalent to making a gain in attainment equivalent to about two years’ normal progress in one year. These results are promising and suggest that conducting an effectiveness RCT is worthwhile to generate an unbiased estimate of the impact in a large number of schools.

ICCAMS is based on formative assessment, which has strong evidence of impact, but which teachers struggle to implement. This is partly due to the often generic descriptions of it, whereas ICCAMS includes subject-specific guidance the formative feedback in ICCAMS.

How are we evaluating it?

A team from Manchester University, led by Maria Pampaka, has been appointed to evaluate the project. The evaluation is set up as an effectiveness trial. Effectiveness trials aim to test whether an intervention can work at scale in a large number of schools.

The grantee team will aim to recruit 110 secondary schools, which will be randomly allocated into two groups. In intervention schools, two Year 7 teachers will be expected to attend CPD days, deliver the ICCAMS lessons to their pupils, and support other Year 7 teachers in using the lessons. In the second year, the aim is that the same cohort of pupils – now in Year 8 – will continue to be taught the lessons, and the same 2 teachers will continue to receive training and support. Control schools will receive financial compensation for taking part.

To measure the attainment of the pupils, the evaluation team will use their Year 6 Key Stage 2 maths results as a baseline measure, and explore maths outcomes of the full Year 8 cohort in intervention and control schools at the end of the second year (summer 2018). 

When will the evaluation report be due?

The evaluation report will be published in Spring 2019.