The Ark Mathematics Mastery programme is a whole-school approach to teaching mathematics. It aims to raise attainment for all pupils and close the attainment gap between pupils from low-income families and their peers. The programme aims to deepen pupils’ conceptual understanding of key mathematical concepts.
Compared to traditional curricula, fewer topics are covered in more depth, and greater emphasis is placed on problem solving and on encouraging mathematical thinking. To help schools and teachers make this shift there is training and in-school support, an online toolkit for teachers, and collaboration amongst teachers delivering the approach.
Ark Mathematics Mastery aims to improve the quality of maths teaching. Features of the programme that are informed by evidence include a systematic approach to mathematical language, frequent use of objects and pictures to represent mathematical concepts, and an emphasis on high expectations. The EEF funded these trials in 2012 to learn if the approach improved maths attainment for all pupils, while also narrowing the attainment gap between lower and higher attaining pupils.
Two randomised controlled trials were funded, one in primary schools (delivered to year 1 pupils) and one in secondary schools (delivered to year 7 pupils).
Both evaluations assessed the programme’s impact in its first year of adoption. In subsequent years it was intended that schools would begin to use the approach with older year groups until it was in place across all year groups. The education charity Ark provided participating schools with training and resources to support the adoption of the programme.
Our trial of the Ark Mathematics Mastery Primary School programme involved 5,108 pupils in 90 schools. The independent evaluation found that pupils in schools adopting Ark Mathematics Mastery made, on average, two months’ progress compared to other pupils in comparison schools. These results have a moderate-to-high security rating: 3 out of 5 on the EEF padlock scale. It was not possible to assess whether the programme had a different impact on pupils eligible for free school meals compared to their peers.
Our trial of the Ark Mathematics Mastery Secondary School programme involved 7,712 pupils in 40 schools. The independent evaluation found that pupils in schools adopting Ark Mathematics Mastery made, on average, one months’ progress compared to other pupils in comparison schools. These results have a high security rating: 4 out of 5 on the EEF padlock scale. A similar average impact was found for pupils eligible for free school meals.
It is possible to combine the findings using an approach known as a ‘meta-analysis’. This can lead to a more accurate estimate of an intervention’s effect, though the results have to be interpreted carefully. Combining the findings from both studies shows an average impact of one additional month’s progress. These results have a moderate-to-high security rating: 3 out of 5 on the EEF padlock scale.
Further to this, the EEF worked with FFT Education Datalab to pilot an Education Data Service. As part of this pilot, the impact of the Ark Mathematics Mastery Primary programme was estimated by matching schools to similar ones using national data sets.
Together the findings of these evaluations are promising. The EEF continues to be interested in approaches that aim to improve the quality of mathematics teaching.
The programme is available nationwide through Ark Curriculum Plus.