Can solving real-life money problems help to boost GCSE maths results, asks major study

8th April 2016 at 15:34
money problems in maths
A new trial will look at whether challenging students to sort out money problems can help them achieve better maths grades.

The trial, involving 9,750 students in 130 schools, will focus on showing students how the maths they learn in class is related to real-life situations, such as estimating the cost of a gas bill.

Around a quarter of questions in GCSE maths exams involve applying maths to a real-world context, but Young Enterprise, an educational skills charity for young people, says that most students only achieve a grade E or F in these questions – suggesting that they find it difficult to apply the maths skills they learn in class to real-world problems.

In response, Young Enterprise has created a Maths in Context programme which focuses on these real-world problems. It is hoped that by doing this the students will do better at GCSE and learn the financial literacy skills they will need after school.

The trial will evaluate the Maths in Context training and materials. It will be co-funded by the grant-awarding body the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) and the Money Advice Service, an independent service set up by government.

'Important life skills'

Sir Kevan Collins, chief executive of the EEF, said: “Most of us would agree that developing a good level of financial literacy is important to success later in life. 

“But many young people are struggling to translate the skills they learn in maths lessons into real-life contexts. Our evaluation of Maths in Context will help give teachers and schools a clearer picture of the best ways to equip young people with the practical maths skills they need to succeed.”

It is one of six new randomised controlled trials announced today.

There will also be three evaluations of different ways of helping pupils who speak English as an additional language:

  • EAL in the mainstream classroom developed by Challenge Partners, which helps Year 10 teachers with planning for EAL;
  • The Integrating English programme, from Enfield Council, which helps Year 5 and 6 teachers teach linguistics and grammar;
  • Family Skills, by Learning Unlimited, which focuses on helping parents to improve the literacy skills of their four and five-year-olds.

There will also be a trial of Achievement for All, which aims to close the attainment gap between disadvantaged children and others, through looking at leadership, teaching, relationships with parents and a wide range of pupil outcomes including enjoyment and engagement. This will be focused in the North East, as part of an ongoing EEF campaign to improve literacy in the region.

And there will also be a study looking at a method of improving language in early years through better assessment. The method has been developed by the University of Oxford.

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