Study shows ‘maths mastery’ experiment improved children’s scores in English schools after just one year
Schools in England experimenting with east Asian teaching methods have seen an improvement in children’s mathematics skills after just one year, according to a study.
The research, published on Thursday, which represents the first hard evidence that introducing a Singaporean “maths mastery” approach into English classrooms can influence results, found a “relatively small but welcome improvement” in children’s performance.
The report’s lead author warned however that the mastery programme should not be seen as “a silver bullet” and called for it to be tested over a longer period in a greater number of schools in order to build a fuller picture.
Policymakers have been studying teaching methods in east Asian countries such as Singapore, Japan and South Korea, which dominate the Pisa international league tables measuring children’s academic achievement. Children there are on average more than one year ahead of their western peers in maths.
The mastery programme differs radically from current maths teaching in England, with fewer topics covered in greater depth, and every child expected to master the topic before the class moves on. Teachers hold weekly hour-long workshops to discuss lesson planning.
The study, led by UCL Institute of Education and the University of Cambridge, evaluated the impact of a Singaporean-inspired teaching programme in 90 English primary schools and 50 secondaries where it was taught to more than 10,000 pupils in year 1 (aged 5-6) and year 7 (11-12).
After a year they saw a small increase in children’s maths test scores compared with pupils in other schools which was roughly equivalent to one additional month of progress over the academic year. The programme is designed to have a cumulative effect, with the full benefit evident after five years.