ScratchMaths is a two-year computing and mathematics curriculum designed for pupils aged nine to eleven years old, supported by teacher professional development. The programme uses ‘Scratch’, a free online programming environment, to integrate coding activities into mathematical learning.
Testing the impact of high quality computer programming lessons on attainment in maths.
Sheffield Hallam University
Developing effective learners
Staff deployment & development
Since 2014, computing has been part of the primary curriculum. ‘Scratch’ is frequently used by schools, and the EEF funded this trial to test whether the platform could be used to improve pupils’ computational thinking skills, and whether this in turn could have a positive impact on Key Stage 2 maths attainment. Good computational thinking skills mean pupils can use problem solving methods that involve expressing problems and their solutions in ways that a computer could execute – for example, recognising patterns. Previous research has shown that pupils with better computational thinking skills do better in maths.
The study found a positive impact on computational thinking skills at the end of Year 5 – particularly for pupils who have ever been eligible for free school meals. However, there was no evidence of an impact on Key Stage 2 maths attainment when pupils were tested at the end of Year 6.
Many of the schools in the trial did not fully implement ScratchMaths, particularly in Year 6, where teachers expressed concerns about the pressure of Key Stage 2 SATs. But there was no evidence that schools which did implement the programme had better maths results.
Schools may be interested in ScratchMaths as an affordable way to cover aspects of the primary computing curriculum in maths lessons without any adverse effect on core maths outcomes. This trial, however, did not provide evidence that ScratchMaths is an effective way to improve maths outcomes. The EEF has no plans for a future trial of ScratchMaths.
There is no evidence that ScratchMaths had an impact on pupils’ KS2 maths outcomes. This result has a very high security rating.
Children in ScratchMaths schools made additional progress in computational thinking scores at the end of Year 5, compared to children in the other schools. The additional progress was higher for children who have ever been eligible for free school meals.
Many schools did not fully implement ScratchMaths, particularly in Year 6. High fidelity to the intervention was found in 44% of schools in Y5 and 24% in Y6. Implementation was enhanced where schools provided teachers with time to work through materials.
Teachers viewed ScratchMaths as a good way of addressing aspects of the primary computing curriculum, good for improving Scratch programming skills, good professional development, and good for its high quality materials. Five teachers voiced concerns that the lower‑attaining pupils needed additional support or adaptation of materials to fully access all ScratchMaths content.
Participation in professional development and the use of materials is potentially a very low-cost per pupil option to enhance non-specialists’ knowledge and skills to teach aspects of the primary computing curriculum in a manner that is suitable for boys and girls.
Full project description
ScratchMaths is a two-year computing and mathematics curriculum designed for pupils aged nine to eleven years old, supported by teacher professional development (PD). The programme uses Scratch, a free online programming environment, to integrate coding activities into mathematical learning. Year 5 and 6 teachers or computing teachers received two full days of training in the summer term before using materials the following academic year. In this project, Y5 teachers could also access two optional half-day sessions and Y6 teachers had the opportunity to attend an optional, further half-day of training and an online webinar. Pupils were expected to be taught ScratchMaths for at least one hour every fortnight and were expected to have access to at least one computer for every two pupils to access the online activities. ScratchMaths was developed and delivered by the UCL Knowledge Lab.
This school-level randomised controlled trial measured the computational thinking scores of pupils after one year of the intervention, and Key Stage 2 maths scores after two years. 110 schools were involved at the start of the trial. An implementation and process evaluation consisted of visits to professional development events, telephone interviews, teacher surveys, and review of project data and materials. The trial ran between April 2015 and June 2017.