Maths Hubs: A National Mathematical Education Initiative

Simon Mazumder is the Maths Hub Lead for North West One Maths Hub. Here, he describes the purpose of Maths Hubs and how they can benefit not only the larger mathematical community, but also individual colleagues in their own professional development journey.

Background and History

Funded by the Department for Education (DfE) and coordinated by the National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics (NCETM), there are 35 Maths Hubs across England.  I am fortunate enough to lead one of the four Maths Hubs based in the North West; the aptly named:  North West One.  Regardless of location, all the Maths Hubs provide an opportunity for people involved in mathematics education to identify both local and national issues, with the aims of raising student’s attainment, enjoyment and engagement in mathematics.  Specifically, the Maths Hubs want to improve the quality of learning and teaching of mathematics, and support maths educators to achieve and deliver a high quality mathematical experience throughout every stage of the mathematics learning journey.

The Maths Hubs are involved in a plethora of mathematics projects, drawing upon the latest teaching strategies from around the world.  Why, you might ask, have we investigated these international approaches to mathematical education?  The answer is that Research into the Programme for International Student Attainment (PISA) and Trends in International Mathematics and Science study (TIMSS) have shown successful mathematical attainment in the countries considered.  Undoubtedly, the UK can learn from the different teaching styles used across the globe.  

Several examples of Maths Hubs projects, and the impact they have had on colleagues, but more importantly students are given below.  What links all these projects together is a common thread of problem solving and using educational research to inform classroom practice.  Each project’s details also features in the National Collaborative Projects and the Local Collaborative projects carried out by all the Maths Hubs.

Shanghai/China Exchange Program:

A primary and secondary project where colleagues are able to work with colleagues from China in developing Teaching for Mastery techniques and methods by working with colleagues in their practice. Small step learning is a key feature to develop deeper mathematical understanding that is key to Teaching for Mastery.

Singapore Teaching Techniques and Textbooks:

A long-term project that is still mainly primary school focused but there is a transitional element working in years 7 & 8 of secondary schools. This has had impressive impact on the attainment of primary school students but also improving the subject knowledge of colleagues working in this phase.

Japanese Lesson Study:

Perhaps arguably the most powerful continual professional development model in mathematics educator education. Many schools and networks are adopting this one hundred years Japanese practice, however this is still in its infancy and will take many years to develop a consistent recognisable local and national model of practice.

Realistic Mathematics Education (RME): originally developed in the Netherlands, this approach to equipping students with problem solving skills has been used successfully for many years in other countries. A major collaboration took place between the Freudenthal Institute (FI) and the University of Wisconsin to produce the Mathematics in Context (MiC) curriculum. Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) purchased this curriculum in 2003, leading to a major curriculum development project funded by the Gatsby Foundation. This curriculum was trialled initially in Manchester and later in other schools in the UK. Many of these schools then volunteered to participate in developing RME materials for KS4 students.

To support those working in maths education, the Maths Hubs offer a wide range of high quality professional development opportunities. Recent changes to the GCSE and A Level specifications, as well as the introduction of the level three qualification Core Maths, require new practices, which the Maths Hubs support through National training programmes and Local networks.  For example, my own Maths Hub is developing problem solving through informed practice. There are many issues arising through adopting the approaches described, for example mix ability classes, non-differentiated teaching, high use of verbalisation and multi method approaches. These all require the development of new teaching techniques for colleagues to master.  A key feature of the regional nature of Maths Hubs is each Hub’s ability to identify the professional development needed by local educators.  

If you’re interested in learning more about Maths Hubs in your area, why not visit our website or sign up to our mailing list?  By joining this growing community you’ll gain access to invaluable resources and information and an increasing network of passionate maths educators.