Maths in Context Trial

Posted on October 14, 2016

The Maths in Context project was developed as the result of previous research that identified a need to help teenagers further understand money matters and financial contexts, and how gaining this knowledge may positively influence their maths attainment and engagement at GCSE level.

Studies indicate that in an average maths GCSE paper, around a quarter of questions contain a financial or ‘real-life’ mathematical context, such as calculating the cost of a gas or electricity bill or working out the interest on a bank account or credit card bill. However research shows that students generally perform poorly on these questions as they do not understand the financial context or vocabulary surrounding these questions, and so are unable to apply the correct maths to answer these particular questions.

With this in mind, The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) has provided funding for the Maths in Context project, which will run for four years and test if teaching pupils ‘real-world’ maths skills can improve their GCSE results and overall engagement in maths lessons. The overarching aim of the project is to measure the impact in terms of mathematical attainment and financial capability of those students involved.

Project Overview

The project will look to recruit 130 secondary schools across England to take part, working solely with Year 10 students and teachers, with recruitment taking place in clusters across England. Following recruitment, the schools will be randomized and split to so that there are 65 schools in an ‘active’ group and 65 in a ‘control’ group. The ‘control’ group schools will receive £1,000 as a reflection of their involvement in the project, and once the project has finished will have access to the full set of lesson plans and resources used in the active group.

The ‘active’ schools will receive full support from a Young Enterprise education consultant and resources to implement with students for a full academic year. Those schools involved in the intervention will elect a lead teacher to attend an external training day, where specific training will be given on the aims and expectations of the project, as well as some training on the approaches to take when teaching maths in context.

A series of 12 specially designed lesson plans will be provided to teachers, which focus on a range of particular maths topics with a practical, financial focus, to be planned into the maths programme of study and delivered in class.

The lead teachers will be fully supported by a Young Enterprise specialist financial education consultant throughout the academic year in order to embed and subsequently deliver the lesson plans with students. Delivery in schools will begin in September 2017 and run for the full academic year, until the following July.


The evaluation of the project is being designed and led by the University of Nottingham, and will be a full academic evaluation. The evaluation is set up as an efficacy trial. Efficacy trials aim to test whether an intervention can work under ideal conditions and when there is close involvement from the original developer.

Schools in the treatment arm will send a lead teacher to receive one day of external training. The training day outlines the pedagogical approach to teaching maths in context, and will provide a set of lesson plans focused on a number of specific maths areas. Schools will be required to adhere to this evaluation process as part of the project.

These lead teachers will then be supported within their own schools to deliver and embed the lesson plans as part of their maths programme of study. Prior to the trial, there will be a phase of development work to refine and pilot the training and materials. These will be piloted in 10–15 schools.

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