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Manchester Institute of Education

Maths makes more sense

Our researchers created classroom resources and diagnostic tools to improve assessment for learning in mathematics. They also developed of a new courses and qualifications, with nearly 30,000 certifications awarded in 2013.

The new resources improve school students' understanding and use of mathematics.

Blackboard with maths equations drawn in chalk. The figure £600,000 is overlaid in white text.
Total sales of Hodder Murray’s standardised diagnostic mathematics tests have netted £600,000.

Traditional programmes in mathematics in schools, colleges and universities involve teacher/lecturer-centred lessons, practice exercises and test-centred assessment. This approach leads to a high drop out from mathematics after GCSEs and AS/A-Levels.

Our insights into more effective methods for assessment and learning led to the development of new classroom assessment tools and a learner-centred courses and qualifications post-16 and at in HE.

New mathematics assessment tools

  • A nationally standardised diagnostic assessment tool for ages 5-14, published by Hodder Murray (MaLT)
  • Produces diagnostic information for teachers to support individual and whole-class teaching
  • Commercial sales of paper and electronic tests and assessment worth over £600,000 to date

Mathematical modelling courses and qualifications

  • Creation of the Free Standing Mathematics Qualifications (FSMQ), obtained by around 53,000 students between 2000 and 2010
  • 27,000 certifications in 2013 for 'Use of Mathematics' across all three qualification levels
  • Mathematical modelling courses in HE-STEM involve seven universities

Research findings on the positive effects of emphasis on mathematical modelling and the use of mathematics are driving significant changes in post-16 and the undergraduate mathematics curriculum for many university courses.

Our research

Maths stationery including a compass and a calculator. The figure 27,000 is overlaid in black text.
27,000 Free Standing Mathematics Qualification certificates were awarded in 2013.

The development of classroom assessment tools involved scaling and validating a range of different tests, largely based on instruments used for research into the psychology of learning mathematics. The researchers trialled various alternatives and then standardised these tool c12,000 pupils nationally, using new methods of validation through models of 'person misfit'.

The second strand of research introduced 'real world modelling' into 'Use of Mathematics' qualifications and assessment. Subsequent research has evaluated these developments.

Key findings:

  • Use of Mathematics courses had lower student drop-out and students were more disposed to continue their mathematics studies
  • Students with lower grades (B and C) in GCSE Mathematics are significantly less likely to survive the traditional qualification than those following the Use of Mathematics programme
  • Students with very high A-level grades now often struggle with the mathematics they are expected to understand in first year university courses in STEM, and declining attitudes to mathematics continues to be a problem for many of these students

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