Maths in Context

This exciting project is formed on the basis of improving teenagers understanding of ‘real-world’ maths in order to help positively impact their attainment and engagement at GCSE level maths.

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The project
April 2016 to March 2020
Project brief: 
This project involves training maths teachers to use real-world contexts when teaching maths, especially using examples related to personal finance.
The funding
Funded by: 
Funder brief: 
This project is funded by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF). The programme and its evaluation is co-funded by the Money Advice Service as part of a funding round on financial education and attainment.

Project Overview

The aim of this project is to improve the engagement and attainment of students at GCSE level maths, and provide them with a better understanding of real-world maths and how to apply this later in life.

This should make maths more accessible, engaging, and relevant to real life, whilst also preparing students for the types of questions they might face in exams, thus improving their financial education. 

This is particularly important as around a quarter of questions in GCSE maths exams involve applying maths to real-world contexts and analysis of past papers shows that many pupils do particularly poorly on such context-based questions, and especially those pupils with low prior attainment.

The Maths in Context project will run as follows:

-  Recruit 130 secondary schools across England
-  Half of the recruited schools will receive training and resources as an 'treatment' group, and half will act as a control group
-  Each treatment school will elect a 'lead teacher', and with support from a Young Enterprise education consultant, will work with Year 10 students to embed a series of pre-developed financial education lessons


A team from Nottingham University has been appointed to conduct the evaluation. The design is a two-armed randomised controlled trial involving 130 secondary schools, with 65 schools allocated to receive training and resources, and 65 schools to a business-as-usual control group.

Schools in the treatment arm will send a lead teacher to receive one day of external training, taking place in September 2017. The training day outlines the pedagogical approach to teaching maths in context, and will provide a set of lesson plans focused on a number of specific maths areas.

These lead teachers will then be supported within their own schools to deliver and embed the lesson plans as part of their maths programme of study. Prior to the trial, a phase of development work to refine and pilot the training materials took place in 10–15 schools. Feedback from this process was used to amend and improve the lesson plans.

Recruitment is now complete, and lead teachers at treatment schools are currently attending training days during September 2017, followed by implementing the financial education lessons for one full academic year.