The Centre recently evaluated the implementation (in the 2013/14 school year) of two programmes designed to improve mathematics achievement in primary schools. The project was co-funded by the Department of Education and Skills, Accenture, and Science Foundation Ireland. The programmes were JUMP Math (Junior Undiscovered Math Prodigies) and IMPACT Maths (Interactive Methods and Practical Approaches to Communication and Thinking). JUMP is a Canadian-designed programme intended to help children succeed at, and enjoy, learning mathematics. Information about its underlying philosophy is available at http://www.jumpmath.org/cms/. IMPACT is a new programme developed by the Primary Development Service for Teachers, based on the Irish primary school mathematics curriculum.
The intervention was run under the auspices of a steering committee composed of representatives from the funding bodies, Galway and Athlone Education Centres, the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA), Change Nation, and an expert in mathematics education, Dr Seán Delaney from Marino Institute of Education. For practical reasons, the evaluation was limited to schools within the catchment area of two Education Centres – Galway and Athlone, and to Third-class pupils within the participating schools. The Centre’s evaluation:
• Reviewed the key characteristics of the programmes and related materials
• Evaluated the fidelity with which participating schools implement the programme
• Established the effects of each programme on the mathematical achievement and attitudes of pupils in participating schools
• Established the effects of each programme on teachers’ mathematical knowledge, teaching practices, and attitudes in participating schools.
Participants (22 schools, 27 classes and almost 600 pupils) were assigned to one or other programme in a manner that maximised comparability on key features such as school location and pupils’ previous mathematics achievement. All pupils were administered the DPMT Level 2 at the start of the 2013/14 academic year and the DPMT Level 3 at the end of the year.
Programme materials were reviewed, using a framework that compared content covered and cognitive demands placed on pupils. Observation of mathematics lessons taught by teachers in each programme were used to establish the fidelity with which participating teachers implemented the programmes, and to identify differences in practice that emerged between the two groups of teachers. Interviews with teachers and with pupils, accompanied by start- and end-of-year questionnaires (including a mathematical knowledge questionnaire for teachers), examined changes in attitudes, behaviour and knowledge related to mathematics.
The final report on the evaluation has been released and can be accessed here.