New research centre aims to boost UK's poor understanding of mathematics

a girl writing sums on a whiteboard

Loughborough University can today announce it is to establish a new research centre focused on improving the way mathematics is taught in schools and colleges.

The Centre for Mathematical Cognition (CMC) will be based at the Mathematics Education Centre (MEC) – one of the most successful groups of mathematics education researchers in the UK.

The annual cost to the UK economy of poor mathematics skills is estimated to be up to £33bn.

Dr Camilla Gilmore, CMC co-director said: “Too many children struggle to achieve the maths skills they need. By linking basic and applied research on mathematics learning, we hope to be able to support teachers to help children achieve their potential.”

So, the Government has invested £6,594,814 in the project through its modern Industrial Strategy.

Universities and Science Minister Chris Skidmore said: “Pushing the boundaries of knowledge and conquering new innovations are what our universities are known for the world over.

"This programme led by Loughborough University will look at how to improve students’ learning of mathematics in the classroom, ensuring we have the STEM skills of the future.

“The Expanding Excellence in England Fund will support projects throughout England to master new and developing areas of research and industry.

“Made possible through our record R&D spend delivered by our modern Industrial Strategy, the investment will support researchers to develop solutions and opportunities for UK researchers and businesses.”

Eleven new academic posts will be associated with the Centre, from Professor to Research Fellow.

Funding for PhD students will also be available.

Professor Matthew Inglis, CMC co-director, said: “This strategic investment in mathematical cognition represents a once-in-a-career opportunity to bring together a group of world-leading academics who can work together to understand and improve mathematics learning."

The new Centre’s activity will integrate three different stages of mathematics education research.

Colleagues will collaborate on basic scientific studies of learning, the design of pedagogical materials based on insights from such studies, and large-scale evaluations of educational interventions.

Because it is crucial that education research both informs, and is informed by, practising teachers, the new Centre will also establish a network of schools and colleges to share evidence-based practice, and ensure that its research activity is closely connected to classroom priorities.

A full recruitment campaign will be launched in the next few months.

Colleagues with academic expertise in mathematical cognition, educational design, or educational evaluation are warmly invited to make informal contact with Camilla Gilmore or Matthew Inglis to discuss opportunities at the new Centre.

High levels of mathematics achievement are associated with enhanced employment outcomes for individuals, and with increased economic growth, but not all children achieve the level of mathematical skills that they are capable of.

Given this, the government’s Industrial Strategy White Paper places a strong emphasis on mathematics education, stating that “Improving the take-up of maths qualifications and the quality of maths teaching across the education system is one of the most significant interventions that the Government can make to tackle STEM skills shortages and secure wider benefits for the economy”.

Across the UK, the Government is providing the biggest boost to research and development funding in UK history, as part of the ambition to raise the level of R&D funding to 2.4% of GDP by 2027.

This investment comes as part of the Expanding Excellence in England Fund supporting England’s world-leading universities to shape new innovations in our economy and provide the skills to support the highly skilled jobs of the future.