Accessibility statement

Maths Champions – a cluster RCT of an online programme in supporting nursery practitioners to develop numeracy skills for children aged 3-4 years 

The Maths Champions one-year programme, developed to improve numeracy education at pre-school, was evaluated. The trial found suggestive but inconclusive evidence that Maths Champions improved the quality of maths provision in participating nurseries. 

Why did we do this research?

A large proportion of children in the UK do not meet the expected levels in mathematics by the end of primary school. It has been shown that high quality early numeracy education at pre-school can have long lasting effects which may help to narrow the gap in achievement throughout life. The Maths Champions one-year programme was developed with the aim of improving the knowledge, skills and confidence of nursery practitioners in order to improve the quality of maths provision within their setting, and ultimately improve early mathematics achievement. Although a pilot of the programme suggested it was effective, robust evidence was needed.

What did we do?

Maths Champions was evaluated using a cluster randomised controlled trial with an internal pilot. 108 nurseries were randomly allocated to either participate in Maths Champions or continue with their “business as usual” provision. Each setting randomised to the intervention nominated a graduate practitioner to be trained as a “Maths Champion”. They audited local practice, used the results to create an action plan for supporting their colleagues to improve their maths teaching, then re-audited practice. The primary outcome for the trial was performance on a maths test of children who were three years old at the start of the programme.

What did we find?

Children who participated in Maths Champions made the equivalent of two additional months’ progress in maths, on average, compared to children in the comparison group. The impact of the intervention did not appear to be affected by pupils’ eligibility for the Early Years Pupil Premium.

The trial found suggestive but inconclusive evidence that Maths Champions improved the quality of maths provision in participating nurseries. A third of nurseries were very or partially engaged with the intervention and most nurseries were positive about Maths Champion, though some also raised the burden on nursery staff time as a potential issue.

What happened next?

The EEF funded a subsequent trial to re-test Maths Champions in a larger number of settings, including school-based nurseries.


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Department of Health Sciences, University of York, York, UK


  • Carole Torgerson

School of Education, University of Durham, Durham, UK


The research was commissioned by the Education Endowment Fund (EEF). The project was started in October 2015 and completed in November 2017.

Study registration

The trial was registered with the ISRCTN: ISRCTN13051035