Education Endowment Foundation:Counting Collections (2022/23 efficacy trial)

Counting Collections (2022/23 efficacy trial)

University of Nottingham
Project info

Independent Evaluator

Sheffield Hallam University logo
Sheffield Hallam University

A trial to test whether and to what extent Counting Collections (a structured early numeracy approach) has an impact on Reception pupils’ attainment in number in mathematics.

Pupils: 3720 Schools: 176 Grant: £495,947
Participating settings: 176

This programme was recruiting, but is now full.

Counting Collections is a hands-on early mathematics approach to develop children’s number sense (understanding of number and quantity). It is developed and delivered by the University of Nottingham, lead by Dr Catherine Gripton. The Counting Collections approach supports counting, subitising, comparing numbers and composition of numbers. It involves children using containers of objects (manipulatives) to find how many are in the collection. Children work in pairs to choose, strategise, count and record how many items there are. They do this in weekly Counting Collections sessions of around 30 minutes. The intervention also involves adding a Counting Collections area to the classroom’s continuous provision. This is a counting library of different sized boxes of inviting objects to count, as well as resources to aid counting (such as ten frames, pots and number tracks) Children can access this provision during play, allowing additional opportunities for number assessment and interaction.

Schools are supported to implement the programme successfully through teacher professional development (PD), being provided with physical Counting Collections resources and support materials. PD is spread over a year and is a blend of face-to-face (PD1 is a full day) and online (PD2-PD5 are half days) sessions. These build teacher knowledge and confidence, taking place throughout the intervention period. As TAs are often involved in teacher-directed sessions and play in Reception classes, they are supported by the teachers in how to fulfil this role for Counting Collections.

As part of the Department for Education’s Accelerator Fund, the EEF is commissioning a number of trials of programmes that show promise for increasing pupil attainment.

Early attainment in number predicts later maths attainment and the approach is well aligned with existing evidence. The programme addresses the inequities in pre-school number experiences by ensuring that all children receive systematic and regular counting experiences. Promoting early growth in number sense systematically provides vital experiences, which disadvantaged children might otherwise miss out on if they have not received them from home or pre-school provision.

To date there is limited, small-scale evidence of this approach in the UK context, with existing evidence coming from trials in Australia and the USA. With this trial we are expecting to build on the evidence and test whether Counting Collections improves pupils’ attainment in number learning.

Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield Institute of Education (SIoE) were appointed as independent evaluator for this trial, with Dr, Martin Culliney as lead evaluator.

The trial will be a two-arm, two-level clustered RCT with pupils clustered into schools with a total of 176 settings. The primary research question will assess whether and to what extent Counting Collections has an impact on reception pupils’ attainment in number as measured by the Sandwell Early Numeracy tests (SENT) GL assessment. This analysis will be replicated for a subgroup of Free School Meal (FSM) eligible pupils. The trial will not have any secondary outcome measures.

The IPE will be closely integrated with the impact evaluation and will shed light on implementation and enable the research team to understand more thoroughly the underlying mechanisms that generate impact. Data collection and analysis methods are expected to include pre/​post teacher surveys, interviews, training observations as well as school visits to observe Counting Collection sessions throughout the 2023 – 24 academic year.

The evaluation report will be published in Summer 2025.