Research and innovation in the Maths Hubs Network

How smaller CPD projects refine, innovate and improve the Maths Hubs Programme and give teachers an opportunity to pursue special interests


Research and innovation in the Maths Hubs Network

Got a burning idea about teaching maths that you’d love to research, but not sure how?

A Maths Hub Research and Innovation Work Group (RIWG) might be just what you have been waiting for. RIWGs are fundamental to the Maths Hubs Programme’s evolution and the network’s commitment to improve through innovation and refinement.

“You can have the most amazing innovative idea. However, if you have no way of experimenting, testing, sharing and refining, your great idea can just get lost. You need to be part of something bigger to really influence improvements in maths education” says Heidi Whitney, NCETM Lead for RIWGs.

As a DfE-funded programme, it is sometimes overlooked that the Maths Hubs Programme is continually influenced by grassroots identification of local needs in maths education. And it continues to develop and innovate with ideas from teachers at the chalkface. Each year, the Maths Hubs Programme includes a mix of large scale, well-established national CPD projects run in every hub, smaller-scale established projects that hubs can choose to be part of, and research and innovation projects that are trying out some ideas. These embryonic projects go ahead if they have future potential to improve maths education at a national level and they can demonstrate that they:

  • have some element of innovation
  • are informed by an existing evidence base, or aim to address an identified evidence gap
  • involve collaboration between teachers.

Some of the existing national Maths Hubs projects began in this way.

RIWGs are a key component in the Maths Hubs Programme’s agility to respond nimbly to emerging need. For example, in response to disrupted schooling during the pandemic, new learning from 2020/21 RIWGs was used in the Mastering Number Programme that began in September 2021.

Case Study: Cross-curricular CPD design

Ever wondered why students persist in drawing curved lines of best fit? Have you ever seen a student leave out a piece of outlier data when calculating a mean? And isn’t it frustrating that the use of formula triangles to solve simple equations gives students no tools for solving more complicated equations ?

Is it time to talk to science teachers in your school to understand the differences and crossovers in your two subjects? To ensure that what and when you teach, for example, standard form, or rearranging equations, complements and supports the other subject, rather than potentially undermining it. Nicola Coe, maths teacher and Maths Hub Lead, thought so and decided to start an RIWG in Angles Maths Hub in 2020/21, bringing together a Work Group of pairs of maths and science teachers from each school involved. Three other Maths Hubs ran Work Groups along a similar theme. Now, in 2021/22, a dozen other hubs are taking part in the project.

Nicola says: “The NCETM has given us a voice to say ‘I have a little idea, can I try it?’ If it doesn’t work, there’s no shame, it doesn’t matter, it might help something else. Or it might work, and grow into something that can influence maths education across England.”

How does an RIWG start?

Sometimes a Research and Innovation Work Group can emerge from a local teacher, or group of teachers, having an idea for improving teaching and learning or noticing something in their classrooms that they would like to research. With the support of their local Maths Hub, this idea can be proposed for an RIWG, so that it can be worked on by a group of teachers from a number of schools in a Work Group. A Maths Hub Work Group is a unique form of CPD that involves teachers working collaboratively on something, over a whole year or more, that is significantly different from more traditional discrete CPD courses.

Case Study: Parental engagement for smoother Year 6/7 transition

At North East Hants and Surrey Maths Hub, Simon Petri, Maths Hub Lead, identified an emerging need during the pandemic.

“Through periods of lockdown it was clear that schools were struggling to help parents to support their child’s learning at home. A number of teachers were asking for advice on how to best support parents and that’s where it all began.”

Having recognised a need, Simon found expertise in another hub in the network (Sussex) and proposed an RIWG in his own hub. In 2021/22, the Work Group is one of two in the network working on parental engagement, drawing on recent research from the EEF and past experience from other teachers working in the Maths Hubs Network. The Work Group brings together pairs of teachers from secondary schools and feeder primaries to look at how they can build parental engagement to support transition.

How could an RIWG influence the Maths Hubs Programme?

RIWGs must fit within the Maths Hubs culture of innovation, research and collaboration, and have the potential to be scaled up if successful. Risk-taking is the nature of innovation and it is understood that some of these ideas may not be worth continuing beyond the first year. However, those that show promise are, in their second year, scaled up. Maths Hubs from around the country can choose to become involved by creating their own local Work Groups collaborating nationally, researching under the same overarching question and refining the initial idea. Eventually such projects may become nationally-established favourites, available in every region, such as the current Mastery Readiness programme, or they may influence design in existing programmes.

Case Study: Oracy

Jane Hawkins, a secondary maths teacher, has always encouraged her students to do a lot of mathematical talking. But it wasn’t until her HoD commented on it that she started reading up on oracy and trying out new strategies to get students talking.

“Not only does mathematical talk help students to understand what they are learning, it also helps me to assess what and how they understand, so much more than an exercise book full of answers.”

In 2020/21, Jane proposed an RIWG with CODE Maths Hub to investigate mathematical oracy further, collaborating with other teachers in Devon and Cornwall. Centrally, the NCETM put her in touch with seven other Work Groups across the country and across all phases from EYFS to KS5, who were working under the similar theme of mathematical talk.

“Although we were all working from slightly different angles, it was really valuable to compare notes and find the similarities across all the phases. As the year progressed, our disparate starting aims became increasingly aligned.”

Following on from their work, in 2021/22 all Maths Hubs were given the option to form Work Groups in their regions tailored to local need, but to work under the overarching question:

How can oracy deepen pupils' mathematical reasoning?

There are now 18 hubs across the country working on the theme, meeting regularly to discuss their findings. When the Work Group is evaluated, the findings may inform the design of national projects in future years.

<p>Explore further</p>

<p>Interested in collaborating on some ground-breaking research and innovation? Got your own idea you’d like to investigate further? Contact your local Maths Hub to find out more about their research activities.</p>

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