Maths Champions

The EEF tested Maths Champions, a programme designed to develop maths teaching in early years settings by supporting a practitioner (the “Maths Champion”) to design and implement an action plan for improving maths teaching. The National Day Nurseries Association supports the Maths Champion with CPD, online resources, and one-to-one advice. 


Early Years

Key stage




EEF Summary

We funded this programme because children’s early maths ability is correlated with attainment in maths and other subjects in later life. Maths is also an area that many early years settings struggle with, and where the gap between disadvantaged children and their peers is particularly large.

The security of the evaluation was weakened by the fact some pupils were not included in the final analysis because they were not tested when the intervention ended. However, there was some evidence that pupils involved in the programme made greater progress in maths. The intervention is relatively cheap in terms of the financial cost, but some participants felt the burden on staff time was a potential barrier to implementation.

The EEF will use these findings to inform our current work on early years professional development and wider work in this sector. 

Research Results

Were the schools in the trial similar to my school?

Nurseries receiving Maths Champions had, on average, 3 graduate staff members.

On average, 8% of the pupils in the Maths Champions nurseries were eligible for the Early Years Pupil Premium.

On average, pupils in the Maths Champions nurseries attended nursery for 24 hours per week. 

Could I implement this in my school?

The programme is available to purchase from the National Day Nurseries Association.

The Maths Champion in each setting must complete two, two-hour online training courses.



Delivered by


Whole School

Participant group


1 Year

Intervention length

How much will it cost?

Maths Champions cost each nursery around £216 per year, which would be £9 per pupil per year when averaged over three years.The main financial costs were those associated with the training and on-going support. 

On average, Maths Champions spent over three hours per week on the programme, with half of them doing this work in their own time. The workload was lower for the other early years practitioners. 



Cost per pupil



No. of Teachers/TAs


0.5 Days

Training time per staff member

Evaluation info





Key Stage

Early Years

Start date

October 2015

End date

July 2018

Type of trial

Effectiveness Trial

Evaluation Conclusions

  1. Children who participated in Maths Champions made the equivalent of two additional months’ progress in maths, on average, compared to children in the comparison group. This result has low security and should be treated with caution. 

  2. The impact of the intervention did not appear to be affected by pupils’ eligibility for the Early Years Pupil Premium. 

  3. The trial found suggestive but inconclusive evidence that Maths Champions improved the quality of maths provision in participating nurseries. 

  4. A third of nurseries taking part in Maths Champions were very or partially engaged with all core features of the intervention. 

  5. Most nurseries were positive about Maths Champions and its impact on settings and children. However, some also raised the burden on nursery staff time as a potential issue. 

  1. Updated: 18th July, 2018

    Printable project summary

    1 MB pdf - EEF-maths-champions.pdf

  2. Updated: 18th July, 2018

    Evaluation Report

    1 MB pdf - Maths_champions_evaluation_report.pdf

  3. Updated: 12th July, 2018


    2 MB pdf

  4. Updated: 3rd August, 2016

    Project Protocol

    792 KB pdf - EEF_Project_Protocol__Maths_Champions_March_16.pdf

  5. Updated: 5th December, 2017

    Project Protocol (Amended)

    801 KB pdf - Round_8_-_Maths_Champions_AMENDED.pdf

  6. Updated: 4th January, 2018

    Project Protocol (Amended) (2)

    861 KB pdf - Round_8_-_Maths_Champions_AMENDED_2.pdf

  7. Updated: 4th January, 2018

    Statistical Analysis Plan

    306 KB pdf - Round_8_-_Maths_Champions_SAP.pdf

Full project description

Maths Champions aims to improve the maths skills of children in private, voluntary and independent (PVI) early years settings. It is a one-year programme developed and delivered by the National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA), supported in this project by Sandra Mathers and Dr Maria Evangelou at the University of Oxford.

Each setting nominates a graduate practitioner to be a “Maths Champion”. NDNA provides each Maths Champion with two, two-hour online courses on auditing early years maths teaching and leading the programme in their setting. The Maths Champions then audit their nursery’s current practices, staff confidence, and the current mathematical competence of both staff and children using tools provided online. The Maths Champions are expected to use the results of the audit to create an action plan for supporting their colleagues to improve their maths teaching. They implement this plan with support from online resources, short monthly webinars and tailored one-to-one support provided by NDNA. At the end of the programme, the Math Champions repeat the initial audit to gauge their setting’s improvement.

Maths Champions was evaluated using a randomised controlled trial (RCT). 108 nurseries were randomly allocated to either participate in Maths Champions or continue with their “business as usual” provision. The primary outcome was performance on a maths test of children who were three years old at the start of the programme. A process evaluation used case studies, surveys, interviews with the project delivery team, observation, and consideration of monitoring data collected by NDNA. The evaluation took place between May 2016 and August 2017, with most nursery settings allocated to the intervention group completing the audits between August and October 2016 and delivering Maths Champions between September/October 2016 and June/July 2017. It was preceded by a small-scale pilot, which involved 6 PVI nurseries and lasted from January 2016 until April 2016.

This project was jointly funded by the EEF and the Stone Family Foundation.