Teaching methods the key to improving maths standards

Posted on 16 December 2009

Changing teaching methods is more effective at improving standards in maths than investing in different text books or technology, according to a new report.

A review of research into the way maths is taught in schools by the Institute for Effective Education at the University of York found little evidence that choosing one curriculum over another made a significant difference.

While technology was judged to have a limited impact in primary schools, at secondary level no computer-based programme was shown to have large effects on standards.

There are a number of proven strategies that teachers can use to improve maths teaching and learning

Professor Robert Slavin, Director of the Institute for Effective Education

The strongest evidence of effectiveness on the outcomes for students was found in research into the influence of professional development for teachers.

Professor Robert Slavin, Director of the Institute for Effective Education, said: “This review shows there are a number of proven strategies that teachers can use to improve maths teaching and learning.

“However, it also highlights the lack of research into what does and does not work in terms of the wide range of materials and teaching methods used to teach maths in UK schools.”

The conclusions of the report “What Works in Teaching Maths?” are based on an analysis of 189 separate pieces of research.

It found particularly strong evidence that introducing ‘co-operative learning’, where children work in small groups to help each other learn, led to higher standards.

Helping teachers improve their classroom management and motivational skills was found to be effective in primary schools.

In contrast, computer-managed learning systems that assess pupils and provide teachers with feedback for use in lessons were generally ineffective.

Notes to editors:

  • The full report “What works in Teaching Maths?” can be found at www.bestevidence.org.uk.
  • The Institute for Effective Education is an independent organisation that develops, evaluates, and disseminates effective education programmes and promotes evidence-based policies. www.york.ac.uk/iee.

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