For a stronger mathematical future
Foreword - NCETM Director Celia Hoyles OBE
The National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics (NCETM) has now become firmly established at the core of mathematics-specific continuing professional development (CPD) and is a crucial partner in taking forward the STEM agenda.
In this Annual Report, you will read about the wide range of National Centre activities, online and face-to-face, which together are having a real and measurable impact on the teaching of mathematics across all phases throughout England. There is strong evidence that the NCETM is helping to create a vibrant and sustainable CPD community embedded in the professional practice of teachers of mathematics.
The number of registered NCETM members reached more than 42 464 in May 2010 – an increase of more than 60 per cent since September 2008. Of these, 36 469 are school- or college-based teaching and support staff. An impressive 11 600 of them are trainee teachers – a figure which bodes well for the commitment of future teachers of mathematics to CPD throughout their careers.
However, we are always striving to reach greater numbers of mathematics teachers, particularly in the primary phase. An NFER survey questioned 1 129 teachers between November 2009 and February 2010, discovering that the percentage of secondary teachers who had heard of the NCETM was 60%, compared with just 27% of primary school teachers. The primary school figure is concerning, and we are putting into place a communications plan to reach more of this group. I would also like to ask all our stakeholders to help us in ensuring that as many teachers as possible are aware of what the NCETM can offer to them. What is clear is that when teachers, primary as well as secondary, know about the NCETM and visit our portal, they like what they find: the percentage finding our offer useful or very useful was about 73% for both sectors.
The portal is developing all the time, largely in response to user feedback. New microsites are helping users zoom in on areas of special interest to them. Almost 9 238 registered users have used the popular Self-evaluation Tools (SET), where teachers can identify gaps in their knowledge, pedagogy and practice, and follow detailed ‘next steps’ to address these. Feedback about the portal is increasingly positive. Anne Cockburn, a mathematics educator in the East of England, commented in the Primary Forum (one of a number of busy communities on the portal): “I have only recently joined the NCETM and think this site is fantastic! Having been away I was amazed to come back and find so many new comments [in the community]. It seems a great way to get people to think about issues.”
In another part of the portal, users can find out how NCETM-funded teacher enquiry is helping teachers examine their classroom practice and develop their pedagogical skills in ways that produce real improvements in their students’ learning experience and success in mathematics. The section Funding teacher enquiry and research - enquiring minds, acquiring skills will give you a flavour of some of the teacher enquiry the Centre has funded.
This year has seen a sharper focus on the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS). The NCETM now has an Early Years National Lead and a monthly EYFS online magazine that complements the primary magazine, with ideas for teaching and links to useful research about teaching and learning in the Foundation Stage.
In January this year, an NCETM supplement in the Education Guardian, Do the maths, stressed the importance of building up skills and confidence in mathematics at all levels. It looked at some of the latest NCETM projects but also drew contributions from across the mathematics community to showcase a range of current developments in the world of mathematics education. It also suggested some exciting, practical ways educators can use ICT for effective teaching and learning.
The Centre welcomed the independent report by the Science and Learning Expert Group, launched in February this year by Sir Mark Walport, that emphasised the importance of the recruitment and retention of teachers of mathematics. It is noteworthy that two NCETM studies of how headteachers are developing mathematics in primary and secondary schools, have underlined the key role CPD plays in recruitment and retention.
Supporting subject leadership was an NCETM priority last year and will continue to be for the coming year. A new Excellence in Mathematics Leadership (EiML) microsite on the portal explores some of the important elements of subject leadership and the core responsibilities of this demanding role. Many teachers are finding it extremely helpful – since its launch in November 2009, well over 10 000 people have visited the site. A typical comment from one of them was: “There are some really useful resources to support my role as maths subject leader. I just wish I had more time!”
The NCETM Standard for mathematics-specific CPD is well underway: its two-year national pilot began in September 2009. There are now 40 holders of the Standard and many more in the pipeline. The Professional Development Calendar on the portal is proving invaluable as a conduit to courses that are available across the country and now indicates those who hold the NCETM Standard.
These are just a few examples of some of the developments at the National Centre. You will read about many more in the following pages. The work is ongoing and there is yet much to do, but the foundations for a firm future for mathematics CPD in England are in place. Teachers of mathematics must continue to be supported if engagement in this key subject is to continue to increase, from the functional mathematics everybody needs every day, to the mathematics that will secure this country’s economic future.
Professor Celia Hoyles OBE
Back to top
National Centre events are designed to inspire educators and provide a forum where they can share experience, build knowledge and confidence and, afterwards, stay connected through communities on the portal as part of an ongoing CPD journey.
Here are some of the highlights of the last year:
NCETM Annual Conference – London, June 2009
The conference looked at the challenges facing teachers of mathematics in the future and the CPD support they would need to help them develop their practice. The event was attended by many key figures from the world of mathematics education who came to hear about and discuss the latest priorities for mathematics CPD. Teachers were at the heart of the day, leading a series of workshops on key classroom issues and participating in debate.
National STEM Director Sir John Holman opened the Conference – and chairs this year’s event as well. Then, as now, he talked about the paramount importance of mathematics in the curriculum and in society more generally. Sir John considered the way the four STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) work together and the paramount role of mathematics among them, commenting: “… mathematics is the foundation of all these subjects and key to the prosperity of this country.” Sir John acknowledged the crucial role that the NCETM plays in the professional development of teachers of mathematics, describing it as a ‘cornerstone’ of mathematical thinking. To read a full report of the day, go to www.ncetm.org.uk/annualconference2009.
Engaging with Mathematics: A journey for teachers, learners and families
Following an approach from teachers in Special Schools, the NCETM held its first National Conference for Teachers of Mathematics in Special Schools
on 7 July, in Leicester. It proved to be highly successful, and in the face of continued demand, similar conferences were held in London, East Midlands and Yorkshire and the Humber in November. Teachers ran well-received workshops – on ‘Mathematics Outside’, ‘Active Starters’ and ‘Sequencing’. The keynote speaker in London, Les Staves, a leading independent consultant in the teaching and learning of mathematics for pupils with severe or complex learning difficulties, brought mathematics to life in everyday scenarios and offered practical tools for classroom teaching. Participants were of course encouraged to keep in touch through a portal community.
Darrilyn Downes, of Forest Oak School, in the West Midlands said: “Listening to positive, enthusiastic speakers gave me ideas to take back to school and use the next day and in the future, as well as sharing them with others. It was also possible to discuss useful websites with like-minded colleagues and email addresses were being exchanged like crazy to keep the communication links open!”
This one-day NCETM conference, in Nottingham on 1 December, explored learners’ attitudes to mathematics. It brought together teachers, managers, parents, researchers and mathematics organisations to share and develop approaches to engaging learners in mathematics and supporting their progression to further education and beyond. Workshops throughout the day addressed these issues from different perspectives with a focus on practice.
In her evaluation of the day, Alison Yeates, of Leicester College, commented: “There was a wide range of workshops at the conference – something for everyone at all levels. I found the ‘Mathematical misconceptions’ workshop very useful and will use the activity we participated in as part of a staff training session exploring common misconceptions.”
Influence and Impact
The National Centre held six ‘Influence and Impact’ events across the country in January and February 2010 to support teachers able to take forward the CPD agenda. The aim was to provide an opportunity for this group of teachers to communicate, collaborate and share practice to enable them to have wider impact. There was a strong emphasis on participants setting up and supporting their own networks as a result of their participation in the events. The following comment captures the essence of the feedback received: “Thank you for a wonderful conference, I found it incredibly useful and very motivating. I am enthusiastic about my next projects and very interested in applying some of the things that I have learned.”
Clare Rafferty, Holly Mount Primary, Bury.
Excellence in Mathematics Leadership
An Excellence in Mathematics Leadership (EiML) conference took place on 3 April, 2009, in Nottingham, to allow the National Centre to consult with mathematics leaders to ensure that an EiML microsite in development on the portal would be relevant and useful. Ten hands-on workshops led by practicing teachers and subject leaders promoted deep thinking around the issues and challenges facing mathematics leaders in schools. The consultation continued through communities on the portal and a microsite that provides mathematics subject leaders and aspiring leaders with practical advice, guidance and resources.
The British Congress of Mathematics Education (BCME 7)
The NCETM played an active role in BCME 7, Mathematical Progressions, held at Manchester University from 6-9 April 2010. BCME brings together all the major mathematics societies in one event that takes place only once every four years. The conference provided a valuable opportunity for CPD and for the NCETM to disseminate findings from funded projects as well as running activities in the CPD areas and distributing reports and promotional materials through a stand, where delegates could access the portal. The event was publicised in monthly e-newsletters and updates, and through the portal.
Back to top
The Portal - building a community, reaching more educators
More and more teachers and educators are visiting the portal, staying longer for each visit and viewing more pages. The NCETM portal now has more than 42 000 registered users; more than 15 000 primary and 14 000 secondary. More than 300 000 interactions are taking place per month in the Personal Learning Space (PLS) and online teacher communities reached a peak of 600 posts per month in September, ten times the figure for last year.
This impressive growth is partly due to the team’s efforts to raise the NCETM’s profile, but also the constant improvements in the portal’s provision, some of which are listed below.
New functional features
Personal and collaborative reflection is a key aspect of CPD. A new tool now allows users to follow a ‘course’ (such as the primary, secondary and FE modules) and capture any reflections in a personal learning timeline in their own PLS. Users can also make immediate voice recording using the new Audio Reflection Tool, storing and, if they wish, sharing these in audio learning journal entries in the PLS.
The online communities have undergone a substantial rework and it is now possible to subscribe to a range of email alerts. In what is probably a first for any website of this kind, there is a new ‘remind me of this item’ icon. With a click of a button the options can be set and a reminder of portal or PLS items will arrive in the user’s email in-box on the date specified.
A new ‘measuring impact tool’ enables teachers to reflect at different points after an activity to help to identify elements that have become embedded in practice. It thus keeps an activity fresh in their minds and provides the NCETM and CPD providers with data about any longer-term impact.
The portal now supports BrowseAloud, which allows people with mild visual impairments to hear online content read aloud. Online visitors can click the BrowseAloud icon on the homepage to download it free of charge.
The NCETM is also extending the regionality of the portal to help users find out what is going on in their region and become involved.
Karenann Spencer, Secondary Strategy Mathematics Consultant, Greenwich LA said:
“Not only do I find the website incredibly useful, I think it is fantastic that the NCETM focuses on teachers thinking carefully about mathematics and their pedagogy, rather than just providing ready-made worksheets for teachers to download and use!”
A number of new microsites have been developed, tailored to the specific needs of different groups:
The Excellence in Mathematics Leadership microsite mentioned earlier is for aspiring or existing subject leaders who would like to think afresh about their role. It explores some of the core responsibilities of this demanding role and offers a flexible and stimulating way for users to review where they are now, plan some next steps and learn from the experiences of other subject leaders through case studies and 'stories of change'.
A list of other new NCETM microsites can be found at www.ncetm.org.uk/microsites.
“A fascinating learning journey” – An NCETM impact study on the portal Self-evaluation Tools
The Self-evaluation Tools (SET) enable educators to assess their mathematics subject knowledge and pedagogical skills and explore ‘next steps’ to develop and strengthen these. Eleven NCETM projects have explored the use of the SET across the key stages from Early Years to Key Stage 5, with teachers from different sectors across a number of the regions. The projects ran from June 2009 to 2010. The SET were generally found to be easy to use and very useful and the NCETM will base further development of the tools on feedback around areas for improvement.
Here are two examples of the uses of the SET at either end of the age spectrum, Early Years and ITE:
Newburn Manor Nursery School, Newcastle, found the tools useful for auditing their skills and knowledge and giving a focus to their discussions on potential CPD. They identified ‘mark making’ as an important area for developing their own practice. One teacher commented: “As an experienced teacher this project has taken me on a fascinating learning journey which has demonstrated that small alterations in my practice can have a profound effect on children’s thinking.”
At University of Hertfordshire the Self-evaluation Tools have been trialled with ITE students to improve and develop their maths skills. They helped tutors identify students who are lacking in confidence and may need more support, helping them to provide a focus for their action plans. One student said: “The subject knowledge audit has helped me to focus on my weaknesses and develop an action plan...”
Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS)
Specific areas of the portal aimed at supporting EYFS practitioners are being introduced to meet growing demand from users. The Mathemapedia has many helpful entries and the mathematics-specific pedagogy section of the SET has some excellent ideas for including mathematical learning in all areas of the EYFS curriculum. There is also a new EYFS-specific online magazine.
As well as a new EYFS magazine, a revived NCETM online magazine for the FE sector has been launched. The magazines – there is now one for every sector – are packed full of interesting and useful material and are proving very helpful in supporting teachers to develop their classroom practice across all phases. Mary Atherton, from Stockton College in the North East wrote to say: “THANK YOU. I love your newsletter and your magazines. Your newsletter always reminds me of good things to do and chief among these is to read your magazines. I teach in an FE college but always read your primary, secondary and FE magazines. Great teaching ideas.”
The NCETM now has a presence on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. In addition, the ‘social bookmarking’ facility has seen teachers bookmark NCETM pages on Delicious. These media provide a two-way route to and from the portal and extend the reach of the ideas, tools and resources to greater numbers of teachers and educators.
Back to top
Funding teacher enquiry and research - enquiring minds, acquiring skills
Mathematics-specific teacher enquiry is effective in changing practice at least in part because teachers develop ownership of any innovative strategies and methods they explore and adopt. Thus the NCETM recognises that collaborative reflection and enquiry pays dividends in producing real results in the classroom and has commissioned the University of Bristol to provide more detail of the impact of participating in NCETM teacher enquiry. Initial findings have revealed that, in all cases, award holders report changes related to the aims and objectives of the enquiry, in their own teaching and frequently in that of their colleagues. Commonly, changes involved approaches that moved away from teacher-led, textbook-driven lessons, towards more learner-focused lessons.
Since September 2006, (not including regional funding) more than 172 awards have been made, ranging from £25k to £1.5k in eight rounds of applications. Reports of these projects are posted on the portal and disseminated at NCETM events so that learning is shared and impact maximised. The NCETM also summarises enquiry outcomes in Teacher Enquiry Bulletins.
There are three main types of NCETM funding:
- Regional Projects Programme (RPP) – for those who would like to make a start in teacher enquiry but would welcome support from an NCETM regional coordinator (RC)
- Mathematics Knowledge Networks (MKN) and Further Mathematics Knowledge Networks (FMKN) – for teachers who may want to work with other colleagues within a pre-defined area
- Teacher Enquiry Funded Projects (TEFP) – for those who feel confident to undertake action research focused on a particular area of their teaching they choose for themselves.
Regional Projects Programme (RPP) – two examples from the primary phase
Cross-curricular themes linked to maths
Practical activities produced collaboratively
A network of teachers from mathematics departments in Shropshire worked together to develop and encourage greater use of collaborative activities in mathematics lessons through the production and sharing of ‘ready to use’ practical resources.
Graham Charles, head of mathematics at Church Stretton School, Shropshire, said: “Each member of the network prepared and submitted up to three collaborative activities… then we all had 28 ‘ready to use’ resources back in return. The NCETM portal has proved to be an easy and effective way to share resources and communicate electronically.”
This project intended to develop staff confidence to engage and motivate children in mathematics by making meaningful and exciting links to other areas of the curriculum, for example, to the history of World War II through activities such as measuring windows for blackout curtains. Fiona Kent (Y3 teacher and mathematics co-ordinator), at John Blow Primary, Nottinghamshire, commented: “This has given me the confidence to take risks and try new things.”
Mathematics Knowledge Networks – an example from the secondary phase
Using ‘masterclasses’ to explore teaching approaches, with a focus on teaching trigonometry
Comberton Village College, near Cambridge, is an 11-16 school with a good level of achievement. The mathematics department decided to use ‘masterclasses’ to stimulate staff and encourage new teaching approaches, with a particular focus on teaching trigonometry. They met in small groups to share how they currently taught the subject and then took it in turn to teach a ‘masterclass’, observed by colleagues, which was subsequently jointly discussed. The method was effective and popular and has now become an ongoing model for CPD in the department that is felt to have a positive impact on the learning of their students. One teacher said: “Every aspect of the project was helpful and valuable – including the seminars before and after the masterclass. They helped me to reflect upon pedagogy – both in relation to this topic and more widely.”
Teacher Enquiry Funded Projects (TEFPs) – an example from the Early Years
Children’s Play: Enriching the early mathematical experience
At Wendron Church of England Junior and Infant School, in Helston, Cornwall, teachers investigated the potential for teaching and learning mathematics through role or ‘context’ play. In particular, they explored the relationship between adult-directed and child-directed mathematical activity, listened to children’s imaginative stories and considered how these could help to develop mathematical thinking. They also used the three Reggio Emilia principles of observing children, documenting children’s learning and ‘re-proposing’ their thinking. Project leader Helen Williams said: “All three teachers involved are planning and organising their mathematics differently as a result of the project, although everyone’s focus differed due to individual circumstances. This includes a move to longer, planned role play sessions that allow children to re-visit and develop a task and time for ‘re-proposal’ and children’s reflection, to move the mathematics on.”
Back to top
The Regions - responding to demand from educators across the country
Over the last year, the NCETM has been responding to increasing demand through its network of regional coordinators (RCs), advanced skills teachers (ASTs) and ambassadors. The RCs are experienced teachers of mathematics, many with a wider involvement in mathematics teaching at the regional and national levels. The ambassadors and ASTs also come directly from teaching and are increasingly approaching the NCETM with ideas for CPD projects that they wish to develop from the ground up.
All NCETM RCs organise a variety of events, meetings and networks in their region to give CPD support and inspiration to mathematics educators all over the country. Many also undertake special projects where an area of particular need is identified. For example, one of the London RCs, Trisha Rogers, has helped set up a project in her region to support teachers of mathematics trained overseas:
“In London, informed by a focus group and portal discussion thread, we have drafted support material for overseas-trained teachers. This includes overviews of the English mathematics curriculum, assessment and organisation of classrooms. It includes, too, guidance on the qualifications and processes required of mathematics teachers in England. Of course, there is also substantial support about the CPD available for teachers of mathematics. Initially, the support for overseas-trained teachers will be provided via a microsite on the NCETM portal. Later in 2010, there will also be a printed publication for use in this country and overseas. We are consulting widely, particularly with the many groups that work with overseas-trained teachers of mathematics.”
A wide variety of projects are taking place around the country. Here is a flavour of some of them:
The Doncaster project
The support of the NCETM has dramatically raised the profile of mathematics and had a significant impact in several Doncaster schools. The numbers of teachers taking part has snowballed, reflecting an increasing trend for educators to approach the NCETM, keen to become involved and develop their own projects:
- At Tranmoor Primary School, the portal Self-evaluation Tools have been used with all staff to identify areas for further support and professional development. A lesson study project has also seen teachers working together in key-stage groups. One teacher, Vicki Hardcastle, commented: “It was great to really spend time focussing on how we can develop children’s mathematical thinking.”
- A Numbers Count network has shared ideas on how to develop home learning and the Numbers Count programme, a numeracy intervention at the heart of the Every Child Counts initiative. Nicola Emms, of Woodfield Primary, explained: “It can be lonely working as a Numbers Count teacher and having the network offers support where I can talk about the issues my children have with maths and how I can best support them to move their learning on.”
- A nursery and pre-school network group has also proved popular. Carole Mcshay, of Loversall Nursery, said: “The network is great as it has given me the opportunity to talk about maths with other practitioners and try new ideas.”
Lesson study ambassador project
Lesson study is a form of classroom-centred professional development that involves teachers planning and teaching together in a collaborative atmosphere. In October 2009, the National Centre funded a group of 30 teachers from 15 schools (primary and secondary) across the country to explore the process. An NCETM associate acted as mentor to the schools, using an online community and trialling video and audio conferencing to keep the teachers in touch. A key aim is to develop a national network of lesson study ambassadors who will promote this way of working with teachers in their regions. Jackie Moore, mathematics leader at St James’ C.E. Primary, Wigan, found it made a real difference: “Colleagues feel empowered as they have an active involvement in each others’ professional development. As a result, our school has analysed the effectiveness of current CPD and reviewed policies and practices.”
Rich tasks project
The ‘First Five Years’ project
Rich task networks, supported by the NCETM RCs and ASTs, provide an opportunity to explore the use of rich tasks with colleagues and find out what sort of professional development activities work well as whole school/whole department CPD. Sue Parkinson, a mathematics teacher at Emmanuel College, Gateshead, feels she has benefited greatly from this: “My involvement in the NCETM North East rich task network has had a really positive impact on my teaching. It is great to see the pupils animated in discussion on mathematical ideas, whilst constantly reviewing techniques and concepts.”
Teachers in the early years of their careers need special support as many of them leave the profession early in their careers – the first five years – so the NCETM launched a national project to identify actions that might be effective in the retention of this important group. In October and November 2009, LA advisors and consultants, ITE specialists, teachers and other mathematics educators met to discuss the current provision for mathematics teachers’ first five years in the profession and developed principles and methods for effective personal learning. A report will be compiled during summer 2010, which will include case studies of effective practice.
Cross-phase video conferencing project
In another ground-breaking initiative, cross-phase video conferencing is extending around the country. Teachers are finding this a great way to share experiences and learn about resources that can help them in the classroom. Simon Wilding, a Y6 teacher at Walter Daw Primary School, Exeter, commented: “As a primary school teacher, I've particularly enjoyed sharing ideas with secondary school teachers and gaining more insight into the transition between Key Stage 2 and Key Stage 3. I feel the programme has enabled motivated teachers of mathematics to take control of their own professional development and explore creative ways of working with children within lessons.”
The Learning and Skills Improvement Service (LSIS) STEM Programme – supporting mathematics networks
Participants from the worlds of mathematics, technology, science and engineering were able to network with like-minded colleagues to develop and share innovative and up-to-date teaching strategies,
review new and stimulating resources, and harness technology in teaching and learning. These networks were highly valued and proved extremely popular, with more than 50 participants – from work-based, college, prison, or adult and community learning environments – attending in some regions. It is hoped that the NCETM will be able to support such networking again in the future. One participant commented: “Time out of the classroom to consider different approaches is impacting on me, my students and possibly other colleagues. It has given me the ideas and the confidence to ‘give it a go’.”
To get in touch with your regional coordinator, go to the Meet the team page, where you will find their contact details.
Back to top
Looking forward - commitment and ambition
The National Centre is constantly extending its offer to mathematics educators across the country, from EYFS through to FE. In 2010/11, the focus of the Centre’s work will be on consolidation and sustainability in pursuit of its core aim of supporting the professional development needs of mathematics educators in all phases across the country.
Mathematics plays a key role in enabling all learners to achieve their full potential and gain the knowledge, skills and qualifications to respond to the challenges of a changing global economy. Confident, highly-skilled teachers of mathematics are essential to achieving this aim. In the coming year, in an evolving political and economic landscape, the National Centre will continue its firm commitment to providing the tools, the resources and the inspiration to support teachers of mathematics through its unique offer of face-to-face and online support.
The NCETM will maintain an overview of the mathematics professional development landscape while ensuring there is strategic leadership and opportunities for high quality professional development, nationally, regionally and locally in the following areas:
- Subject leadership
Mathematics leadership is critical in raising standards in schools and colleges and mathematics leaders, at all levels, require high quality professional development. The NCETM will work with school and college leaders, mathematics leaders (HODs, mathematics coordinators, IMTs, ASTs, etc.), HEIs, and expert or inspirational schools and colleges to support subject leadership.
- Supporting mathematics teachers
Student attainment and engagement is enhanced when teachers engage in effective professional development, particularly that which involves projects and networks. The NCETM will continue to engage groups of teachers in collaborative working, building new and sustainable networks and continuing to seek to work with groups who might not naturally define themselves as mathematics teachers.
- Supporting the curriculum
The NCETM team will be flexible in responding to any initiatives and seek to ensure there is planned and available relevant professional development to support any changes in the mathematics curriculum.
Back to top
Working in partnership - with stakeholders and the mathematics community
We would like thank all our key partners and stakeholders for their support throughout the last year and look forward to continuing to work together in 2010/11.
We are again particularly grateful to members of our Advisory Committees who have helped us to develop a collaborative approach to promoting the CPD agenda for all teachers of mathematics in all regions.
The NCETM objectives
- To stimulate demand for mathematics-specific CPD, contributing to strengthening the mathematical knowledge of teachers.
- To lead and improve the coordination, accessibility and availability of mathematics-specific CPD.
- To enable all teachers of mathematics to identify and access high quality CPD that will best meet their needs and aspirations.
This report is available to download
as a PDF.
Back to top