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New maths trial boosts evidence on children’s numeracy

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Research on the QuickSmart Numeracy program says it is delivering a month’s worth of impact on maths achievement when compared with students doing regular maths classes alone.

QuickSmart is designed to help students become ‘automatic’ in basic maths skills and then apply them is more advanced maths tasks. Students attend 90 QuickSmart sessions in 30 weeks in addition to their regular maths classes.

Evidence for Learning conducted the trial and publicly reports the findings of all trials, regardless of the result, to ensure transparency in the process.

“While this trial helps develop a better understanding of QuickSmart as a program, what’s more important is that we continue to generate better evidence and systematically put it in the hands of teachers in a way we haven’t done in Australia in the past” said Matthew Deeble, Director at Evidence for Learning.

“Improving the use of evidence is one way we can increase the learning of all students, but it has particular significance for students who are struggling.”

While this type of research has been common in healthcare for the last 30 years, it is increasingly used in other fields, like education to objectively understand the extra benefit of different practices.

SiMERR National Research Centre, the not-for-profit developer of QuickSmart based at the University of New England had built evidence of the program’s benefits since the program commenced in 2001 and agreed to Evidence for Learning’s request to carry out this RCT.

“SiMERR deserves enormous credit for agreeing to participate in a trial of this nature and to open themselves up to a level of visibility that is very rare in education research.”

“Their overriding interest throughout has been to produce high-quality research which yields insights that will improve education practice, particularly for struggling learners. In holding themselves to this standard they set the benchmark for other program developers in Australia.”

A total of 23 Sydney Catholic Schools joined the trial to deliver QuickSmart throughout 2017. The Teachers and Teaching Centre at the University of Newcastle conducted the independent evaluation and analysed the results for all students at the start and end of the program and six months after the final QuickSmart session.

QuickSmart recommends that students participate in 90% or more of the 90 sessions to achieve maximum benefit. However, in this trial only 12% of Primary students and no Secondary students achieved this level of attendance.

There was strong evidence that QuickSmart improved Primary school students’ interest and confidence in maths. Students who achieve higher levels of participation appear to have achieved greater improvements, but the number of students in this group was too small to say conclusively. Further study of this group is warranted. The direct costs of implementing QuickSmart was also found to be very low relative to other approaches.

The full findings and ‘practitioner-friendly’ resources is available for free at https://www.evidenceforlearning.org.au/lif/our-projects/quicksmart-numeracy/

Evidence for Learning is a not-for-profit organisation that shares the best quality evidence on what works in classrooms with teachers and education decision makers across Australia.

SiMERR Australia works with rural and regional communities to achieve improved educational outcomes for all students in the areas of Science, ICT and Mathematics.

SiMERR support student achievement and enhance teacher growth through research, preservice, in-service, community and overseas programs by working collaboratively with communities, educational authorities, professional associations and industry groups to develop solutions to the problems faced by teachers, particularly those who are professionally isolated.

The Teachers and Teaching Priority Research Centre aims to achieve high quality research, training and knowledge translation in the development and testing of interventions and innovations that will be used and sustained in the practice of teaching and teacher development across a broad range of contexts.


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