Improving Numeracy and Literacy in Key Stage 1
This page covers the first (efficacy) trial of the Mathematics and Reasoning programme, which tested whether it could work in schools under best possible conditions. To read about the second (effectiveness) trial - testing a scalable model under everyday conditions in a large number of schools - click here.
The Mathematical Reasoning programme aims to improve mathematical attainment by developing pupils’ understanding of the logical principles underlying mathematics. The Literacy and Morphemes programme aims to improve pupils’ spelling and reading comprehension. Both programmes are delivered to year 2 pupils during normal lesson time.
Improving pupils' numeracy and literacy through two programmes: ‘Mathematical Reasoning’ and ‘Literacy and Morphemes'
Developing effective learners
Language and literacy
Previous studies suggested both programmes offered affordable approaches to improving pupil outcomes. Based on this, the EEF funded a trial (Improving Literacy and Numeracy in KS1) to test the impact of the two programmes under developer-led conditions. Pupils receiving Mathematical Reasoning made an additional three months’ progress in maths compared to other pupils in comparison schools. There was no evidence that Literacy and Morphemes improved spelling or reading outcomes.
The EEF then funded a follow-up evaluation which examined the impact of a scalable version of Mathematical Reasoning in a larger number of schools and with less involvement from the original developer (co-funded by the Worshipful Company of Actuaries). The National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics (NCETM) helped to develop the training model, and coordinated its delivery through its national network of ‘Maths Hubs’ (partnerships of schools focused on maths education). In this second, larger trial, pupils who received Mathematical Reasoning made the equivalent of one additional month’s progress in maths, on average, compared to other children.
There are some differences between the two projects which may explain the smaller impact in the second trial. First, it used a different delivery model. Rather than doing the teaching training directly, the programme developers (the University of Oxford) trained Maths Hub teachers who then delivered the teacher training to participating schools. This may have affected how faithfully the programme was delivered in the classroom. Also, although a precise comparison is difficult, there was evidence that the comparison schools in the second trial were more likely than in the first trial to provide alternative support for children’s reasoning in maths. This may have reduced the difference seen between Mathematical Reasoning pupils and other pupils.
Together, these trials provide evidence for the effectiveness of Mathematical Reasoning. The project will remain on the EEF’s Promising Projects list and we will explore the potential for bringing it to more schools.
This evaluation provided evidence that the Mathematics and Reasoning programme had a positive impact on pupils’ numeracy ability equating to three additional months’ progress.
There was no evidence to suggest that the Literacy and Morphemes programme had an impact on pupils’ literacy ability overall.
There was an association between greater use of the accompanying computer games and greater impact in the numeracy intervention, suggesting the computer games were important to successful implementation.
All teachers were able to implement the programmes, but most agreed there was too much content to deliver in one hour per week and so made various adaptations to their delivery of the programme. In future trials of the programmes, teachers should be permitted to use and integrate the materials in their own way, as they would in a normal teaching situation.
A future trial could evaluate the programmes at scale in more than one location. When drawing up plans for bringing the programmes to scale, the Oxford team should consider whether training and ongoing technical support could be delivered remotely, rather than in person.
Full project description
The Improving Numeracy and Literacy project aimed to improve the numeracy and literacy abilities of pupils in Year 2 through two separate programmes of teacher training and accompanying teaching materials and computer games. The Mathematics and Reasoning programme aimed to develop children’s understanding of the logical principles underlying mathematics, and the Literacy and Morphemes programme aimed to improve spelling and reading comprehension by teaching children about sentence structure and morphemes. Morphemes are components of words that are either stems, which can often appear as words on their own (such as ‘fair’), or affixes, which cannot be words on their own (such as ‘un-’ or ‘-ly’). The programmes were originally developed (with the support of the ESRC-TLRP Research Programme) by Professor Terezinha Nunes and Professor Peter Bryant at the Department of Education, University of Oxford.
Both interventions were designed to last for 10 to 12 weeks with children receiving one hour of instruction per week as one of their normal literacy or numeracy lessons. Teachers in intervention schools attended a day of training aimed at introducing them to the programmes, explaining the concepts, and allowing them to explore the learning activities for themselves. This was followed by a visit from a member of the research team based at Oxford to support with programme implementation.
Fifty-five schools were recruited to participate in the evaluation by the University of Oxford team: 17 were allocated to the numeracy group, 19 to the literacy group and 19 to the control group.