The Midland Academies Trust – Connecting Maths Concepts

Direct Instruction (DI) is a model for teaching that emphasises clearly specified, scripted lessons designed around small learning increments and clearly defined and prescribed teaching tasks delivered at a fast pace. It is based on the idea that clear instruction eliminating misinterpretations can improve and accelerate learning.

In this project, the Midland Academies Trust (MAT) and National Institute For Direct Instruction (NIFDI) are collaborating to implement a DI programme called Connecting Math Concepts. NIFDI is the American organisation which created the programme but it does not have a presence in England. MAT is an English academy chain with an understanding of the local context and experience of delivering DI programmes in a small number of local schools.

Connecting Maths Concepts is a programme of scripted lessons and assessments designed to provide explicit and systematic instruction on fundamental concepts in maths.It aims to enable students to master key concepts through opportunities to practise and review their understanding. In this project, teachers will deliver Connecting Math Concepts to pupils in years 7 to 9 who are struggling to make progress in maths. Pupils will be selected for participation using a placement test before the programme starts. The programme materials are available in several levels of difficulty and the placement test is also used to ensure that pupils receive the right materials.

Teachers involved in the project will receivetwo days of initial in-person training on programme delivery. The delivery team will also provide ongoing support through coaching visits and analysis of video recording of teachers’ practice. 

Why are we funding it?

The EEF’s evidence review on maths in key stages 2 and 3 identified three meta-analyses which suggested that DI programmes had, on average, a positive impact on maths learning. It also suggested that DI may be particularly beneficial for pupils who are struggling with maths. The reviewers recommended DI as a promising area for future research.

Although there is strong evidence for the overall DI approach, there is weaker evidence for the Connecting Math Concepts programme specifically and very little evidence in English schools. 

How are we evaluating it?

We have appointed a team from NFER, led bySuzanne Straw, to evaluate the programme. This pilot will focus on testing the feasibility of the programme in the UK context and the feasibility of the delivery model used by the MAT and NIFDI teams. The evaluation methods will include a student survey, observation of training and programme delivery, and interviews. The findings from the pilot will be used by the EEF to decide whether to fund a full efficacy trial. 

When will the evaluation report be due?

If the EEF decides to fund an efficacy trial, we will not publish a report on the pilot immediately. In this case we will publish a description of the pilot with the efficacy trial report at a later date. If the EEF does not fund an efficacy trial, we will publish a report on the pilot project in summer 2020.