In September 1999, the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) introduced a National Numeracy Strategy (NNS) for primary schools in England. The NNS included the following key elements:
- a daily mathematics lesson in primary schools lasting between 45 and 60 minutes
- a three-part structure to these lessons comprising (i) an oral/mental starter (ii) the main teaching and pupil activities and (iii) a plenary
- an emphasis on the use of interactive whole-class teaching.
The aim of this review is to consider the research evidence that bears upon the ways in which the approach adopted by teachers during the Daily Mathematics Lesson in delivering the NNS has impacted on pupils' confidence and competence in early mathematics.
Has the Daily Mathematics Lesson, in the context of the National Numeracy Strategy for primary schools in England, helped pupils to develop confidence and competence in early mathematics?
Identifying relevant studies involved carrying out an electronic search using keywords with bibliographic databases, handsearching through key journals and conference proceedings, and citations and publications recommended by contacts. This resulted in 18 studies being identified for the in-depth analysis.
- The key features of the Daily Mathematics Lesson have been well received by teachers and widely implemented.
- There is some evidence that this has enhanced pupil confidence and competence in early mathematics.
- A closer examination of the situation as evidenced by the studies included in this systematic review has highlighted a number of problematic issues.
- The intention that whole-class teaching needs to be 'interactive' and promote higher quality dialogue, discussion and strategic thinking, has not been realised. Indeed, there is some evidence to indicate that the increased use of 'traditional' whole-class teaching with 'pace', is in fact undermining the development of a more reflective and strategic approach to thinking about mathematics, and may be creating problems for lower attaining pupils.
- There is evidence that the stricter time management involved may pose particular problems for lower attaining pupils.
- The overall enhanced gains in pupil competence may be a reflection of a closer match between what is being taught and what is being tested, rather than greater pupil gains in their understanding of mathematics.
The main strengths of this review have been that the review process has followed a publicly visible procedure, and has benefited from the collaboration involved between the Review Group, the EPPI Centre and many other individuals who offered comment, help and advice. The close scrutiny of the procedures involved means that each stage of the review process involved discussion and justification.
The main limitations of the review are that the constraints involved in terms of time, cost and access to relevant papers, inevitably means that decisions about the focus of the review question and the conduct of the review process had to be taken in the context of keeping the review manageable.
Our main conclusions are as follows:
- Policy-makers need to consider the extent to which the apparent success of the NNS may in part be a reflection of greater teaching for the test, whether the approach of interactive whole class teaching with pace may be inculcating bad learning habits, and whether the needs of low attaining pupils are being well served by the NNS. There is also a need to consider how the national assessment of pupil progress in mathematics can occur without constraining time and pedagogy in ways that are undermining the development of pupils' mathematical understanding.
- There is a major need for in-service training for primary teachers to highlight the purpose and nature of 'interactive' teaching in fostering higher quality dialogue, discussion and strategic thinking. This would ensure that teachers better understand the notion of 'interactive' in interactive whole-class teaching, and that teachers adopt the type of classroom practice that can effectively aid the development of pupils' understanding of the mathematics of the topics they are covering. In particular, there is a need for in-service training to strengthen teachers' subject matter knowledge of mathematics, so that in the classroom context they can take better advantages of opportunities to enhance pupils' understanding of the mathematics they are engaged in.
- There is a need for researchers to make greater use of measures and indicators of pupil confidence in order to draw firmer conclusions about how the features of the Daily Mathematics Lessons impact on pupils' feelings of self-efficacy concerning the learning of mathematics.
This report should be cited as: Kyriacou C, Goulding M (2004) A systematic review of the impact of the Daily Mathematics Lesson in enhancing pupil confidence and competence in early mathematics. In Research Evidence in Education Library. London: EPPI Centre, Social Science Research Unit, Institute of Education, University of London.