Sheffield Hallam University report casts doubt on government’s Shanghai ‘maths mastery’ plan

Academics in Yorkshire are leading the way in an evaluation of the government’s plan to bring Shanghai-style “maths mastery” to thousands of schools in the UK – but suggest that cultural and professional differences may hinder a seachange in the way pupils learn the subject. The Yorkshire Post reports.

Sheffield Hallam University researchers have assessed how well a plan for English schools to adopt East Asian mathematics teaching methods is working in its early stages.

In 2016, the Department for Education (DfE) unveiled a multi-million pound fund to help more than 8,000 schools – half of the total number in England – receive support to adopt the approach.

Methods used by leading maths performers such as Shanghai, Singapore and Hong Kong often emphasise the mastery of small steps during whole-class interactive sessions, with all pupils progressing together.

On Friday the university released its new evaluation of the DfE’s programme, which largely focused on teacher exchanges between China and England between 2015 and 2018.

It concluded that there were positive impacts on Key Stage 1 maths pupils in schools that engaged with the method, but found “no quantifiable evidence” that attainment among Key Stage 2 children was improved when compared to schools not using the Shanghai approach.

Evaluation leader Mark Boylan, of Sheffield Hallam, told The Yorkshire Post: “It doesn’t look, on the evidence so far, that it’s going to have a massive effect, like the Government hopes, in really making a step change.”

There are three key cultural and professional reasons for this, he suggested.

Because of China’s former one-child policy, it means parents and grandparents are heavily involved in just one pupil’s education. And mathematics teachers in East Asia have a “profound” knowledge of the subject, while English primary educators teach more generally – and thirdly their workload is very different.

Read more Sheffield Hallam University report casts doubt on government’s Shanghai ‘maths mastery’ plan  

Have you taught maths mastery? Is it having a big effect on the children? Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin.

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