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Innovating to Solve Problems in Maths

This evaluation report covers the impact and reach of the pilot year (2017/18) of the Maths Mission programme, a partnership between Tata and Nesta. The programme aims to improve attitudes and attainment in maths and promote the subject as a problem-solving tool with young people.

Key findings

  • Competitions that provide opportunities to apply maths in interesting contexts, and combine with other important skills like collaboration and creativity, can support improved attitudes to maths. More exploration of how such programmes can be designed to maximise long-term impact is needed.
  • Text-messages can improve parental engagement in their child’s maths education: but the content used must be carefully tested to ensure it encourages helpful engagement.
  • Well-structured peer mentoring programmes can make a real difference to pupil outcomes. More evidence is needed on the longevity and transferability of improvements in maths attainment, and the impact on wider skills and capabilities.

It is well known that the skills needed for the future world of work will be different to today, as Nesta’s 2017 report The Future of Skills: Employment in 2030 explored. Although there is a level of uncertainty around these future needs, there is strong evidence that maths skills and collaborative problem-solving will be particularly important.

One of the major obstacles is attitude – the belief that ‘some people just can’t do maths’. This limiting belief, which is prevalent in the UK, can encourage young people to disengage from an early age.

Tata and Nesta came together in Spring 2017 with the purpose of identifying the best way to support efforts to tackle this set of problems: in particular to change attitudes and increase attainment in maths, promoting the subject as a practical, engaging and problem-solving tool.

The partnership brings together Nesta’s expertise supporting innovation and evidence-based interventions, and Tata’s commitment to investing in high-impact programmes. The two organisations understood that there was great potential in many early-stage innovations, run by experts who needed support to pilot and test their solutions. This report outlines the reach, impact, learning and next steps for the Maths Mission project.

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Maths Mission


Jed Cinnamon

Jed Cinnamon

Jed Cinnamon

Programme Manager, Education

Jed is a Programme Manager in the Education team at Nesta.

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