Intervening in mathematics at Key Stage 3

Funded by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF), our team of materials writers, trainers and education researchers carried out a randomised controlled trial involving 60 intervention schools and 59 control schools across England, initially planned to run from October 2018 to July 2020. As a result of the disruption due to COVID-19, the trial was extended into the 2020/21 school year. Final testing took place in May/June 2021.

Two teachers from each intervention school received specialist training in RME and were supported to develop their practice over the two years of the trial, delivering RME materials to Year 7 students in the first year of the intervention, and (ideally) following these students through to Year 8 in the second year.  Teachers attended 7 days of face to face training over the two years, with a planned 8th and final day replaced by on-line meetings in the first lockdown of the pandemic. The aim of the training programme was that by the end of the two years teachers would be confidently using RME materials and would be able to extend the approach to their overall mathematics teaching.

The extension into 2020/21 involved further on-line training sessions in which we aimed to support teachers in consolidating student learning, bridging gaps due to lockdown, and helping students to make connections across different areas of mathematics.

The materials

We asked teachers to spend at least two weeks on each of the five RME modules in Year 7, and again in Year 8.  The content covered in the modules matched with topics that are usually covered in  Years 7 and 8:

fractions, percentages, ratio, comparing proportional quantities, unitary methods, proportional reasoning,  area of plane shapes including circles, Pythagoras Theorem,  mean, median, mode and range for non- grouped and grouped data, pictographs, bar charts, stem and leaf diagrams, pie charts, simplifying algebraic expressions, re-arranging formulae, straight line graphs, gradient and intercept

Research and evaluation

The trial is independently evaluated by the Sheffield Institute of Education at Sheffield Hallam University.  You can find the evaluation protocol and the statistical analysis plan here.

We also gathered data on the impact of our training on teachers’ practice, working with 5 ‘Design Schools’ in order to understand more about how teachers adapted to an RME approach. We also collected ethnographic data at our training days around the country and interviewed teachers about their experience and their developing practice.  Analysis is in progress.

Outputs

Kathotia, V., O’Brien, K. & Solomon, Y. (2021) Just mathematics? Fostering empowering and inclusive mathematics classrooms with Realistic Mathematics Education,  Mathematics Education and Society Conference 11