Direct Instruction in Key Stage 3 - Connecting Maths Concepts
The Direct Instruction in Key Stage 3 Connecting Maths Concepts programme utilises a comprehensive mathematics programme ‘CMC’, developed in the United States as a core-instruction programme for primary-aged pupils. The CMC programme comprises of scripted lessons and assessments designed to provide explicit and systematic instruction on fundamental concepts in mathematics. It is based on the Direct Instruction (DI) model of teaching which emphasises a sequenced curriculum, systematic teaching, and mastery.
The CMC programme aims to enable pupils to master key concepts through opportunities to practise and review their understanding. The highly manualised programme can be delivered by specialist/non-specialist mathematics teachers and learning support practitioners, who are trained as ‘DI instructors’. The programme materials are available in several levels of difficulty and a placement test is used to try and ensure that pupils receive the right level.
This pilot of the CMC programme aimed to explore its promise and feasibility when implemented in English schools to support Year 7, 8 and 9 pupils (ages 11 – 14) with low prior attainment in mathematics. The CMC programme was delivered three to five times a week over 15 weeks in place of usual mathematics lessons. Lessons were designed to be 70 minutes long, comprising 50 minutes of teacher-led direct instruction and 20 minutes of independent working. Lessons included clear and consistent explanations, choral responding, immediate correction, feedback, independent work, and a motivation system.
This project will pilot a Direct Instruction maths programme, Connecting Maths Concepts, with Key Stage 3 students.
There is a great deal of evidence showing that the Direct Instruction approach can increase mathematics attainment for school-age pupils, and particularly those struggling with mathematics concepts. Research specific to the CMC programme includes several small-scale randomised controlled trials and observational studies. These show positive impacts on mathematics attainment for primary-age students in the US; however, there is less evidence on the feasibility and acceptability of the programme in other contexts.
The DI KS3 CMC pilot study aimed to evaluate the promise and feasibility of the CMC programme in the specific context of mathematics teaching targeted at Key Stage 3 (Years 7, 8, and 9) pupils in English secondary schools. It also explored whether the pedagogical approaches essential to the CMC approach were acceptable to teachers and pupils.
The pilot study involved 189 pupils in KS3 across eight secondary schools and found that pupils reported increased confidence in mathematics understanding and ability, particularly in Year 7. However, the perceived effectiveness of the programme elements was mixed.
DI instructors and pupils in the pilot study viewed several of the CMC programme elements as effective. These included the sequenced structure of the programme, clear explanations of mathematics concepts, feedback, mastery, and the motivation system. However, the lack of differentiated content, choral responding, and repetition were regarded as less effective elements, and may have led to low-level behavioural challenges – although this issue was perceived to have abated over the course of the pilot. The lack of alignment to the KS3 curriculum content was also raised as a concern when replacing usual mathematics lessons.
Considered with the logistical challenges schools encountered in meeting the implementation criteria, the DI KS3 CMC programme is not ready for trial. The pilot evaluation suggests that modifying the programme to address the issues encountered by schools is not feasible as this would undermine the integrity of the programme. Suggested alternatives for further exploring the potential of the programme and DI approaches include: adjusting the target pupils to upper primary-age and Year 7; delivering a DI-based programme (such as Corrective Mathematics) as a supplementary intervention in addition to the main KS3 curriculum; or employing a different intervention that combines the effective features of the programme with the mathematics curriculum and pedagogical culture in England.
The EEF has no plans for a further trial of the CMC programme.
Full project description
The Direct Instruction in Key Stage 3—Connecting Maths Concepts pilot aimed to explore the promise and feasibility of implementing the Connecting Maths Concepts (CMC) programme to support Key Stage 3 (KS3) students with low prior attainment in mathematics. Developed in the United States as a comprehensive mathematics programme for primary-aged students, the programme consists of sequenced, scripted lessons and assessments designed to provide specific, systematic, and structured instruction in fundamental concepts in mathematics. It is based on the Direct Instruction (DI) model of teaching and key elements include whole-class mastery, error correction, choral responding, feedback, assessment, and the use of a motivation system.
In this pilot study, the CMC programme was implemented in eight secondary schools in the Midlands region of England. A total of 189 students across Years 7, 8, and 9, took part in the programme between September and December 2019. Schools implemented 15 weeks of the CMC programme to groups of up to 14 students per year group. Students completed a placement test to match their level of attainment with the appropriate CMC programme level and received CMC as a replacement to usual mathematics lessons three to five times a week. Lessons were designed to be 70 minutes, comprising 50 minutes of whole-class instruction and 20 minutes of independent working.
Teachers and learning support practitioners received two days of training, ongoing coaching, and CMC course materials to deliver the CMC programme (subsequently referred to as ‘DI instructors’). Programme training and implementation were supported by the U.S.-based National Institute for Direct Instruction (NIFDI)—a prominent Direct Instruction support provider in the U.S.—and a local delivery team, coordinated by Midland Academies Trust (MAT).