Maths in Context

This programme involves training maths teachers to use real-world contexts when teaching maths, especially using examples related to personal finance. The aim is that this should make the subject more accessible, engaging, and relevant to real life, whilst also preparing students for the types of questions they might face in exams, and improving their financial education. This is particularly important as around a quarter of questions in GCSE maths exams involve applying maths to real-world contexts and analysis of past papers shows that many pupils do particularly poorly on such context-based questions, and especially those pupils with low prior attainment.

Why are we funding it?

This programme and its evaluation is co-funded by the Money Advice Service as part of a mini-themed round on financial education and attainment.

The programme will be delivered by the charity Young Enterprise. Young Enterprise developed and piloted the approach with funding from the London Schools Excellence Fund in 26 schools. The evaluation, which included class-level control groups, found that children who received the programme made improvements in their ability to answer questions with financial contexts compared to those in the control group. This project will now test the programme using a more robust randomised control trial design.

How are we evaluating it?

A team from Nottingham University has been appointed to conduct the evaluation. The design is a two-armed randomised controlled trial involving 130 secondary schools, with 65 schools allocated to receive training and resources, and 65 schools to a business-as-usual control group. The evaluation is set up as an efficacy trial. Efficacy trials aim to test whether an intervention can work under ideal conditions and when there is close involvement from the original developer.

Schools in the treatment arm will send a lead teacher to receive one day of external training. The training day outlines the pedagogical approach to teaching maths in context, and will provide a set of lesson plans focused on a number of specific maths areas. These lead teachers will then be supported within their own schools to deliver and embed the lesson plans as part of their maths programme of study. Recruitment to the randomised control trial will start in January 2017 and schools will begin the programme from September 2017. Prior to the trial, there will be a phase of development work to refine and pilot the training and materials. These will be piloted in 10–15 schools.

When will the evaluation report be due?

The evaluation report will be published in spring 2020.