RM Maths was initially trialled in 15 schools within Flintshire, including Primary schools, Welsh Medium schools and a special school. The software was originally sourced as an intervention programme to enable pupils to catch up in Mathematics. However, it generated huge interest among teachers and pupils alike and trial results proved that the software delivers fantastic benefits all round. So Flintshire decided to supply RM Maths to every school across the county...
Pre- and post-trial test scores in a sample of 10% of Year 5 pupils from the initial 15 trial schools were used to analyse the value of RM Maths to those schools. And the results were fantastic. An impressive 86% of the overall sample progressed in Mathematics, with 34% of those pupils making significant gains in the subject over a short period of time.
Not only did RM Maths software increase attainment under formal testing conditions, but it was also found to have raised individual pupils' general self-assurance.
Schools reported a huge boost in the level of confidence in pupils who had completed the trial programme. It was found to have promoted independence, because pupils were able to feel responsible for their own learning - and they enjoyed their learning experience too. As one Flintshire pupil put it:"I like going on the computer and using RM; I don't have to do Maths then!"
The trial was deemed to be a huge success and other schools immediately began declaring their interest in using RM Maths to help their pupils too. The decision was taken to roll it out across the county and by the end of February 2009, Flintshire County Council had provided a total of 72 schools with the software.
RM Maths gives pupils 15 minutes of individualised Maths support a day. It was developed to build pupils' confidence and enjoyment of Maths while also increasing their overall attainment in the subject. The personalised learning content is carefully designed to keep pupils' attention and to motivate them. All the activities presented and the rate of progression and practice are exactly matched to each pupil's ability level, with a focus on core skills and Mental Maths. What's more, pupils are able to work independently. RM Maths is easy to set up and pupils need no support either at the start of or during their sessions.
According to independent research, 8 out of 10 customers strongly agree that RM Maths contributes to improved learning outcomes. Additionally, more than 8 out of 10 customers strongly agree that RM Maths is good quality software, which is motivating, visually stimulating and easy for pupils to use.*
Flintshire County Council originally sourced RM Maths following a decision to use an ICT solution as an intervention programme to enable pupils to catch up in Mathematics, as well as to support less able pupils.
Another programme had been used previously, but it was considered far too laborious for easy and effective implementation county-wide. Each pupil underwent an assessment and following that, the teacher had to find time to watch a video of the assessment, schedule and complete a one-to-one intervention and also devise an individual learning programme for each pupil according to the results of their assessment and intervention. It all became far too time consuming.
The council found that not only were schools finding it difficult to allocate teaching time to sitting and reviewing the assessments, but that pupil progression was taking far too long due to the lengthy assessment process. After a series of evaluation sessions, teachers themselves also reported that it was far too labour intensive to have any swift impact on pupil learning.
Essentially, a new software package was needed in Flintshire schools - one that would require minimal teacher training, offer fast assessment and reporting and enable evident pupil progression. This would help problem areas to be highlighted and intervention to be actioned swiftly and successfully.
Although some schools in the county are quite small - often with fewer than 100 pupils - all of them have a server. This meant that the council was able to purchase site/user licences for the software according to the size of each individual school. This made it fairly easy to effectively roll out RM Maths to each and every school in Flintshire.
To ensure that the schools used the software provided to them, the council asked them to sign an agreement document stating that they would use RM Maths as advised. They also committed to providing results for 10% of their Year 5 pupils once they had completed their programme.
Teacher training was paid for through Basic Skills funding. This allowed both teachers and teaching assistants to be trained for one day, have a follow-up and to return for an evaluation morning. This ensured that familiarisation with RM Maths took very little time out of their teaching week.
Meanwhile, the council also had to consider differences in curriculum between the English Numeracy Strategy and the Welsh Assembly Government National Curriculum - especially in parts of Flintshire where Welsh is the primary spoken language.
Following its initial introduction as an intervention programme, RM Maths has proved hugely popular among pupils and teachers alike.
"All of our schools have been really enthusiastic about it," says Ann Jones, of Flintshire County Council. She adds: "Initially, just 10% of Year 5 pupils were participating in the trial. But within weeks, it had been rolled out to other year groups, with some schools having every pupil working on it. The results were so fantastic that a lot of children have completed the programme right through to the extension disc 4.1."
For the pilot programme, a sample of 10% of Year 5 pupils from the 15 initial trial schools was tested to determine the effectiveness of RM Maths on attainment in the subject. This group comprised an equal number of boys and girls. These pupils sat CATS tests in Year 4 to provide predictive data for the forthcoming Year 5. They were assessed before and after completion of a 12-week course of RM Maths usage of 10 minutes per day for each child. All participants were re-tested post-trial using the Year 5 Nfer Maths test.
The trial delivered significant benefits for pupils and teachers alike. Results showed that pupils who took part in the trial of RM Maths actually surpassed their predicted scores for Year 5. An impressive 86% of the overall sample progressed in Maths, with 34% of those making significant progress. A total of 92% of male pupils progressed, with 38% making significant progress. Among the girls, 82% of pupils progressed, with 32% making significant progress**.
Teachers were able to use the quick and easy reports generated by the RM Maths software to help to write Individual Education Plans and to identify specific areas where a pupil may be struggling. This helped them to intervene swiftly and successfully in the right areas.
The successful adoption of RM Maths in schools across Flintshire has not only helped to increase pupil attainment, but also to boost confidence and a sense of achievement all round.
Teachers report that their pupils have become more enthusiastic about Maths, which often leads to greater class discussion and an obvious increase in the level of commitment shown to the subject. They can also use the information and feedback that RM Maths provides about individual pupil progress to set work that suits the different ability levels in a class.
One teacher states:"Pupils who are using RM Maths have gained in confidence and, as a result, are more enthusiastic and willing to join in with the class and group activities." Another explains: "Peter*** used to sigh when I mentioned Maths, and he was reluctant to take part in oral sessions. Now he comes in asking what time his slot is." Yet another adds: "We even have pupils who come to school early to use the programme!"
The RM Maths software has had a big impact on pupils too. Typical feedback includes comments such as "I like the characters; they make the work fun." and "I like coming to school to do Maths now. I didn't like it before - it was too hard." One young enthusiast even goes as far as explaining: "I come in early to use the computer for RM Maths. Then sometimes I am allowed another go if I finish my work!"
As RM Maths is now used throughout the whole of Flintshire, the council is soon to conduct a comprehensive evaluation process. Before then, word of mouth accounts for everything. And schools seem full of praise. As Ann Jones, Primary Learning Advisor for Numeracy, reports:"Nobody has had a bad word to say. It has taken off really quickly!"
Such is the success of the introduction and widespread implementation of RM Maths that Flintshire County Council hopes the technology can be extended to include a permanent, online version.
Meanwhile, i-Nfer Plan is now being piloted across Flintshire, Conwy and Denbighshire. Should this also prove to be successful, there may be a roll-out to schools throughout the Welsh counties.
* Based on independent research among 114 customers conducted by 360 Research in December 2005, according to the Market Research Guidelines for objectivity.
** Flintshire RM Maths results 2007/2008
*** Name has been changed
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