Shared Maths

Shared Maths is a form of cross-age peer tutoring, developed at Durham University, where older pupils (Year 5/Year 6) work with younger pupils (Year 3/Year 4) to discuss and work through maths problems using a structured approach. The intervention structures interactions between the two pupils to enable the younger pupils (the tutee) to find solutions to maths problems. The older pupils (the tutor) use strategies such as questioning, thinking out loud, praise, and reviewing strategies to gain a deeper understanding of mathematics.

The intervention was delivered by teachers, with training and support from a Local Co-ordinator in each of four participating local authorities (Leeds, Medway, Durham and Worcester). Participating pupils spent 20 minutes each week using the approach, for two blocks of 16 weeks over consecutive years.

An effectiveness trial assessed the impact of the project on the progress in terms of mathematics of 6,472 pupils (3,305 in Year 3 and 3,167 in Year 5) in 82 primary schools across four local authorities with 40 schools randomly allocated to receive the programme and 42 schools allocated to the control condition. The control schools received the intervention after the intervention schools had completed the project.

Key Conclusions

The following conclusions summarise the project outcome

  1. This evaluation does not provide any evidence that the Durham Shared Maths programme had an impact on attainment in maths, when used with Year 5 and 3 pupils.

  2. There is no quantitative evidence of any impact on the attitudes towards school, reading and maths for both Year 3 and Year 5 pupils who participated in the Shared Maths programme.

  3. The process evaluation revealed teachers’ views that pupils with EAL, SEN and lower ability were particularly struggling with the intervention. Teachers did not feel well equipped to support these pupils in accessing the intervention.

  4. Teachers reported a number of wider perceived benefits from using Shared Maths - such as improvements in confidence in maths, approaches to problem-solving and social skills. These benefits may in time help support improvements in learning, and transfer to other lessons, although further work is needed here.

  5. Given the concerns expressed by teachers about lower ability pupils finding adherence to the programme challenging, Shared Maths could benefit from further tailoring of the content and delivery to be better suited for pupils with different abilities prior to further testing.

What is the impact?

There is no evidence from this evaluation that the Durham Shared Maths intervention had an impact on the maths attainment (primary outcome) of participating pupils, as well as on attitudes towards school, maths and reading (secondary outcomes) of participating pupils, measured using Interactive Computerised Assessment System (InCAS) scores, compared to those in the control group.

Interviews with participating teachers and the Shared Maths delivery team suggested that there were minor differences in the way the programme was implemented (for example the format and content of training for teachers and pupils) although such differences can be expected considering the scale and context of intervention delivery. Furthermore, it has to be noted that teachers had to fit the intervention to their existing schemes of work.

Although teachers perceived the programme to be benefitting pupils in terms of their confidence in maths, approaches to problem-solving and social skills, there were concerns about the accessibility of the intervention for lower ability pupils and pupils with English as an Additional Language (EAL) or Special Educational Needs (SEN).

Intervention vs. control (Year 3)0.01
Intervention vs. control (Year 5)0.02+1
Free School Meal pupils (Year 3)-0.05 –1N/A
Free School Meal pupils (Year 5)0.05+1N/A
Since this report was published, the conversion from effect size into months of additional progress has been slightly revised. If these results were reported using the new conversion, the result for 'Intervention vs. control (Year 5)' would be reported as 0 months of additional progress rather than +1.

How secure is the finding?

This evaluation was set up as an effectiveness trial to test the impact of Shared Maths with Year 5 and Year 3 pupils, delivered with the developer leading the recruitment and retention of the schools, but with the training and support for the intervention managed by Local Co-ordinators. Effectiveness trials aim to test the intervention in realistic conditions in a large number of schools.

This was a clustered Randomised Controlled Trial (RCT), with 82 schools, across four local authorities, randomly allocated to receive the intervention (40 schools) or continue teaching as usual (42 schools). At the end of the intervention period all pupils were asked to complete the Interactive Computerised Assessment System (InCAS) standardised maths test, as a measure of general maths ability.

The study was a large and well-conducted study, designed to detect a minimal effect size of 0.10. There was a low level of school drop out from the project (3 schools dropped out, or 4%) and this was from both the control and intervention groups, suggesting that it did not introduce selection bias. The testing was administered by the schools and the delivery team and therefore, in accordance with the EEF padlock guidance, this reduced the padlock rating to 4.

The process evaluation indicates there was some variation in the way the programme was delivered and how successfully pupils adhered to the Shared Maths approach, although a degree of variation could be expected with a large-scale delivery of the intervention in a real life setting.

Overall, this indicates the findings are moderate to highly secure.

How much does it cost?

The Durham Shared Maths intervention included costs for Local Co-ordinators, teacher training and resources associated with delivering the programme. Overall, the total cost of the programme per 16 week block is £660 per school. This translates into a unit cost of £8.25 per pupil per academic year.