New maths trial boosts evidence on children’s numeracy

New maths trial boosts evidence on children’s numeracy

Reports show that the proportion of Australian 15-year-olds who are reaching international baseline levels in maths education has fallen significantly over the last decade.

According to the Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth (ARACY), just 79% of Year 10 students reached the international baseline level for maths in 2015, compared with 87% of students in 2006.

However, research is closing in on how students can improve their outcomes in this critical discipline.

Today, Evidence for Learning released the findings of its latest trial on a maths program – QuickSmart Numeracy, adding to earlier reports aimed at improving the quality of evidence teachers can draw on when they are helping students in the classroom.

QuickSmart is designed to help students become ‘automatic’ in basic maths skills and then apply them is more advanced maths tasks. Students attend 90 QuickSmart sessions in 30 weeks in addition to their regular maths classes.

The trial found that, on average, QuickSmart had one month’s additional impact on maths achievement compared to students who only participated in regular maths classes, and there appeared to be greater gains for students attending more QuickSmart sessions.

However, the results were not statistically significant and need to be treated with some caution.

Matthew Deeble, Director at Evidence for Learning, said that while the trial helps to develop a better understanding of the program, it’s more important to generate better evidence and “put it in the hands of teachers in a way that hasn’t been done in the past”.

“Improving the use of evidence is one way we can increase the learning of all students, but it has particular significance for students who are struggling,” Deeble said.

A total of 23 Sydney Catholic Schools joined the trial to deliver QuickSmart throughout 2017. The Teachers and Teaching Centre at the University of Newcastle conducted the independent evaluation and analysed the results for all students at the start and end of the program and six months after the final QuickSmart session.

QuickSmart recommends that students participate in 90% or more of the 90 sessions to achieve maximum benefit. However, in this trial only 12% of Primary students and no Secondary students achieved this level of attendance.

Deeble said the direct costs of implementing QuickSmart was also found to be very low relative to other approaches.

“This type of research commonly shows smaller gains than developers have seen previously. Our UK partner, the Education Endowment Foundation have run more than 100 of these experiments,” Deeble said.

“Only one out of every five showed any additional benefit, three show no significant difference and one is actually worse than ‘business as usual’.”