onebillion: app-based maths learning
The onebillion programme consists of two apps that are designed to support the acquisition of basic mathematical skills for pupils aged 3-6. This project tested the impact of the apps on pupils in year 1 who had been identified by their teachers as being in the bottom half of the class in mathematics. The apps were developed by onebillion, a not-for-profit organisation. In this project, teaching assistants were trained to use the apps by a team from the University of Nottingham.
University of Oxford
The EEF funded this trial of onebillion because the intervention had an existing promising evidence base from a previous trial in twelve schools in Nottingham.
In this trial, pupils who received onebillion made an additional three months’ progress, on average, compared to the control group. This result has very high security. FSM-eligible pupils made less progress if they received onebillion. However, this analysis involves a smaller number of pupils, so we are unable to confidently claim that this negative impact is likely to occur for FSM-eligible pupils outside of this research project.
The headline finding is very promising but the trial suggested that there may have been a negative impact on FSM pupils. More research with a larger sample size is required to ascertain whether the impact on FSM-eligible pupils can be expected outside of the trial. The EEF are considering funding an effectiveness trial which will aim to investigate the impact on FSM-eligible pupils with higher security. Teachers or school leaders using onebillion should carefully monitor the impact on FSM-eligible pupils when implementing the approach.
Pupils who received onebillion made an additional three months’ progress in maths compared to the control group. This result has very high security.
Pupils eligible for free school meals (FSM) made two fewer months’ progress in maths if they received onebillion compared to those in the control group. These results have lower security than the overall findings because of the smaller number of pupils.
The process evaluation suggested that the impact of the programme might be influenced by the amount of the pedagogical support given to the pupils during the intervention sessions. Exploratory analysis suggested that pupils tended to do better when supervised by TAs who thought that their role was to teach concepts when the pupils had difficulty.
In this project, teachers started with Maths 3–5 and then moved to the Maths 4–6 app. TAs reported that pupils enjoyed Maths 3–5 more and required less pedagogical support to use it.
Further research is needed on the nature of the pedagogical support that works best in onebillion sessions and the effects of the programme on the mathematics attainment of pupils entitled to FSM.
Full project description
The onebillion programme consists of two tablet apps, Maths 3–5 and Maths 4–6, that are designed to reinforce basic mathematical skills learned in the classroom. The apps are aimed at pupils aged 3–5 and 4–6 respectively and consist of mathematical activities organised around different topics such as counting, shape, and measures. Each topic is followed by an end-of-topic quiz which pupils are expected to pass before they move onto the next topic. The activities are aligned with the aims of the Early Years Foundation Stage and the National Curriculum in England. The apps were developed by onebillion, a not-for-profit organisation, and in this trial the delivery of the programme was led by a team from the University of Nottingham.
This project tested the impact of onebillion when it is used by schools as a targeted intervention with small groups of pupils. The programme was targeted at Year 1 pupils (aged 5–6) who had been identified by their teachers as being in the lower half of the class in mathematics at the start of the school year. Pupils worked through the apps independently and sessions were usually supervised by a teaching assistant (TA) or, in some cases, a teacher. The TAs’ main tasks were to ensure that all the pupils had access to the onebillion apps throughout the session and to solve any technical problems. TAs were only occasionally expected to provide pedagogical support, for example if the pupil was struggling to progress past an end-of-topic quiz. The programme was designed to last for 12 weeks with four 30-minute sessions per week. The delivery team recommended to schools that the intervention is delivered outside of the time allocated to normal maths lessons. The Nottingham University team provided one half-day of face-to-face training, an Implementation Manual and instructional videos to support schools to use the apps.
onebillion was evaluated using a two-arm randomised controlled trial (RCT): 113 schools were randomised to either receive the intervention or continue with business as usual teaching. The primary outcome was performance on a maths test (Progress Test in Maths [PTM], GL Assessment, 2015). A process evaluation involved interviews with TAs, observations of intervention sessions, and questionnaires given to TAs and other school staff. Recruitment for the trial started in September 2017 and the post-test took place in July 2018.