Mathematics education is crucial for the economy: the Industrial Strategy White Paper describes improving the quality of mathematics teaching as “one of the most significant interventions” that government could make to tackle the UK’s shortage of STEM skills.
The aim of the Centre for Mathematical Cognition is to harness insights from basic research on cognition to improve the teaching and learning of mathematics.
Unfortunately, research-based educational interventions are not always effective at raising student achievement. For example, a recent review found that 77% of interventions evaluated by rigorous large-scale educational trials did not significantly improve students’ learning outcomes (Lortie-Forgues & Inglis, 2019). This highlights that there is a problem in the pipeline that links research on fundamental learning processes, the development of novel educational interventions, and the application of these interventions at scale.
We believe that if proposed interventions are to have the best chance of success, high-quality curricula and teaching materials must be developed which are based on a sophisticated understanding of the cognitive processes involved in learning, as well as sound educational design principles. On the rare occasions when this pipeline has functioned effectively, substantial learning gains have been achieved.
Our aim is to respond to this disconnect between basic research, careful design, and educational evaluation in mathematics. The Centre for Mathematical Cognition, funded via Research England’s Expanding Excellence in England scheme, will conduct scientific research on the learning of mathematics, design appropriate teaching materials based on this science, and rigorously evaluate the effectiveness of these materials and others via informative RCTs.
Because it is crucial that education research both informs, and is informed by, practising teachers, the Centre has established LUMEN, a network of teachers at local schools and colleges which provides professional development and which ensures that our research addresses the priorities of practitioners.