News | Wednesday, 21st February 2018
New maths education trial uses real-world contexts to improve understanding
Training teachers to use a Dutch approach called Realistic Mathematics Education
A new trial involving 24,000 pupils in 120 schools across England aims to improve Key Stage 3 maths education by training teachers to use a different approach to teaching called Realistic Mathematics Education (RME).
In Realistic Mathematics Education, teachers start with problem contexts which students can imagine and relate to.
Students are encouraged to develop informal models of situations and visualise how mathematical processes work. This means that they develop a variety of strategies for problem-solving, including problems they have never seen before – a crucial ability in the new-style GCSE.
Professor Yvette Solomon, Professor of Education at Manchester Metropolitan University and project-lead, said: “The RME approach is significantly different from the approaches often used in England in a number of respects. We often focus too much on algorithmic approaches, teaching students to memorise rules without understanding.
“Students with good memories might pass exams, but many can’t use their maths in novel situations. Many students mis-learn, forget or misapply the rules, and for them maths is just about failure.”
A Dutch approach
The trial will use materials developed by a team at Manchester Metropolitan University with several years of experience of RME.
The team of teacher educators, curriculum designers and education researchers will train teachers in participating schools to deliver the a programme of RME lessons during Year 7 and Year 8 using teacher guides and supporting materials for the classroom.
Originally developed in the Netherlands, where it is used in 80% of schools, the RME approach has been used successfully for many years in other countries.
We often focus too much on algorithmic approaches, teaching students to memorise rules without understanding. Many students mis-learn, forget or misapply the rules, and for them maths is just about failure.
Professor Solomon added: “The Netherlands, in particular, perform strongly on international tests like the Programme for International Student Assessment. Unfortunately, analysis shows that England is falling behind other countries when it comes to maths.
“Problem solving is emphasized in the new maths curriculum, and is a topic on which schools are looking for guidance so this programme will be a major step forward.”
The programme will build on an existing series of materials called ‘Making Sense of Maths’, developed by the Manchester Metropolitan University team with Mathematics in Education and Industry (MEI) in an earlier trial. The current large-scale trial is being funded by the Education Endowment Foundation.
Find out more about how to get involved in the trail on the Education Endowment Foundation website.