Transforming students’ learning of ‘hard to teach’ topics in key stage 3 maths through dynamic technology

By Wednesday, April 15, 2015 No tags Permalink

Guest post – Dr Alison Clark-Wilson, UCL Institute of Education

For more than 20 years there have been lots of opportunities for technology to impact on students’ outcomes in secondary mathematics classrooms and there is substantial research evidence of how particular approaches to key topics have achieved this. However, the real picture is that dynamic technologies are barely affecting most students’ classroom experiences in mathematics.

The barriers are well known:

  • The need to organise regular access to technology in mathematics lessons for cohorts of students on a regular basis – now much more possible by BYOD (bring your own device), tablet/laptop trolleys and maths IT suites.
  • The time needed to plan sequences of lesson tasks that bridge the computer work with paper/pencil work – and that encourage student collaboration – so where research-informed resources have already been developed, why not adapt these, rather than create from scratch?
  • Access to sustained professional development opportunities over months (and years) through vibrant teacher communities – if a well-designed funded opportunity comes along, will your school ‘invest’?

So, for example, we know from prior research that if key stage 3 students are introduced to the ‘hard to teach’ concept of linear functions through animations of characters, they build a deeper understanding of the important relationships between equations, graphs and tables of values. We also know that teachers consider that their students’ resulting learning also stands the test of time in that they remember the important mathematical ideas many months later.

Since 2009, the Cornerstone Maths project (a collaboration between Stanford Research Institute International in the US and the London Knowledge Lab, UCL Institute of Education) has been designed to overcome these barriers and, as a result, the curriculum materials have already been used by over 6000 students and 230 teachers across England.

The Nuffield Foundation are currently funding a two-year project in London schools that aims to research how teachers’ own mathematical knowledge and teaching practices develop as they begin to incorporate dynamic technologies into their key stage 3 lessons. This project is being directed by Professor Dame Celia Hoyles and myself and we will work alongside the participating teachers and schools to develop a set of professional development resources that support the Cornerstone Maths curriculum units to become embedded within revised key stage 3 schemes of work such that all teachers feel confident and competent to use them well.

There are places for (at least) two teachers from up to 105 schools that teach key stage 3 mathematics – so find out more – and register your interest right away at

The first professional development events begin in late June 2015 and will continue into the 2015-16 school year.

We will look forward to sharing the project outcomes with the LondonEd community over the coming months and years.



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