Maths Everywhere

Country Profile: United Kingdom Of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

Population

64,097,085 (2013, World Bank)

Official language

English

Total expenditure on education as % of GNP

5.5 (2010)

Total Youth Literacy Rate (15-24 years)
  • Total: 100%
  • Male: 100%
  • Female: 100%
Primary School Net Enrolment/Attendance

100% (2005 - 2010)

Adult Literacy Rate (15 years and over, 2005–2010)
  • Total: 99%
  • Male: 99%
  • Female: 99%

Programme Overview

Programme TitleMaths Everywhere
Implementing OrganizationNIACE
Language of InstructionEnglish
FundingDepartment for Business, Innovation and Skills, UK government
Programme PartnersBolton College and Modern-English
Annual Programme Costs£120,000 (equivalent to US $202,392)
Annual programme cost per learner (based on ongoing costs for 2,500 self-directed learners): £4.80 (roughly equivalent to US $8). The cost will be higher if the app is used in blended learning, dependent on resource input from individual organizations.
Date of InceptionDecember 2013

Country Context and Background

Although the United Kingdom remains one of the world’s wealthiest nations, many of its adults have been failed by the country’s education system. Half of all adults in the UK have the literacy and numeracy skills expected of an 11 years old (NIACE, 2013). Despite this, the number of adults in the UK engaging in continuing education has fallen, from 20.1% in 2009 to 15.8% in 2011 (Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, 2011). It is estimated that 5.1 million adults in the UK are affected by low literacy skill levels, while 16.8 million adults lack basic numeracy skills (ibid.). Poor literacy and numeracy skills not only reduce adults’ capacity to cope with day-to-day challenges, such as reading medical instructions or calculating electricity bills, but can also prevent them from participating effectively in civil society. To address these concerns, the UK government and the devolved administration in Wales have made community learning centres the focus of their efforts to support 80% of all working-age adults to reach at least literacy level 1 by the end of 2016 (UIL, 2013). Literacy programmes tend to outnumber numeracy programmes in the UK. However, there is a growing appreciation of the need for more and better numeracy programmes to help adults deal with everyday number problems.

The OECD’s Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC) defines numeracy as the ability to use, apply, interpret and communicate numerical information and ideas in order to manage the mathematical demands of adult life (OECD Skills Outlook, 2013). A numerate adult is one who can respond adequately to the wide range of mathematical information encountered in everyday life. With a GDP of US $2.476 trillion, the UK’s adults might be expected to perform well in terms of numeracy. However, the OECD scores the UK only 259 out of 400 in terms of adult numeracy, significantly below the average score of 266 (ibid.). It is evident that the UK needs adult numeracy programmes in order to catch up with other OECD countries. As technologies advance, adults need not only literacy and numeracy skills but also the ability to acquire and disseminate information in a technology-rich environment if they are to flourish as citizens. The growth in use of devices such as mobile phones and tablets represents another challenge to adults’ digital skills set. It is difficult to function adequately, either at work or in general life, without some basic knowledge of the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs). Adults must not only become proficient in computer skills but also develop their abilities to use these tool to manage information and solve problems. Adults who lack adequate ICT skills – and the OECD identified a large number of adults with little experience of ICTs – will find many routes to employment effectively blocked. Although the UK scores slightly above the OECD average for ICT skills, there is a lot of work to be done to close the digital divide. Improving ICT skills also represents an opportunity to address other basic skills needs, particularly numeracy, in a complementary way, helping adults apply their skills in real-life situations. The growing trend for accessing the internet via mobile devices means that mobile applications could have a significant positive impact when it comes to engaging adults in numeracy learning.

Programme Overview

Maths Everywhere is a learner-centered, interactive smart-phone application aimed at adults of all ages. Most participants are drawn from informal and non-formal learning programmes, including apprenticeships, and maths and vocational courses. The application was developed as part of a nationwide initiative, Maths4Us, which included a competition for learning providers and app developers to work together to develop a new maths application. The winning app would be the one that best helped adults to see how relevant and useful maths is to everyone, everyday and everywhere, and to improve their maths skills. The potential of phones and tablets as portable, personalized learning environments meant that the mobile application was an obvious choice as medium. The winning app, Maths Everywhere, was chosen by public vote, and was designed and developed by Bolton College and app developers Modern-English, in partnership with NIACE and with funding from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. Developed using the principles of game design in order to encourage participation and continued learning, the app has since won App of the Year at the prestigious Prolific North Awards. The app can be downloaded for free for Android and Apple phones and is available online at www.mathseverywhere.org.uk. It has three sections with tools, video tutorials and practice questions to help adults improve their skills and become more confident in utilizing their numeracy capabilities to solve real-life problems.

Aims and Objectives

The app was required to:

Teaching and Learning: Approaches and Methodologies

The primary aim of Maths Everywhere is to enable learners to acquire skills online, at times and in conditions that suit them and that fit around their other commitments.

The app consists of tools, theory and practice

The app consists of tools, theory and practice

The learning content of the programme comprises tools, theory and practice:

Immediate feedback: correct

Immediate feedback: correct

Immediate feedback: incorrect

Immediate feedback: incorrect

The app was developed using a number of different principles, which meant that it had to:

Programme Content and Teaching Material

The app content was written by basic skills tutors from Bolton College, with input from their learners. All the tools, questions and learning videos in the app are mapped to the UK’s functional skills curriculum, designed by the UK government to help learners develop the mathematical skills needed to gain qualifications and succeed at work (Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, 2007).

Developing the teaching content

Developing the teaching content

The three modules for Maths Everywhere feature:

Everyday tools

A range of tools are provided to help people solve everyday maths problems. Sample questions include splitting the bill among several people at a restaurant, working out fuel costs for a journey, calculating childcare costs, converting currencies, increasing or reducing recipe quantities, figuring out discounts, and much more.

The  tools are closely linked to mathematical situations adults encounter in their daily lives

The tools are closely linked to mathematical situations adults encounter in their daily lives

The app is designed not only to teach adults basic numeracy rules, but also to help them solve everyday mathematical problems

The app is designed not only to teach adults basic numeracy rules, but also to help them solve everyday mathematical problems

How to Work It Out

A series of short video tutorials aims to help users improve their skills so they can confidently solve problems for themselves (see https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCV-Y24-8LLU7WlTc7S4CYow). Users are guided through three different levels of maths challenges – beginner, intermediate and advanced – with an increasing degree of difficulty.

The video tutorials are designed to be interactive and eye-catching to keep learners engaged

The video tutorials are designed to be interactive and eye-catching to keep learners engaged

The videos are animated in an engaging way

The videos are animated in an engaging way

Have a Go

In this section, learners can put their new and improved skills into practice, earning a badge for each topic by answering all of the questions correctly. If they give an incorrect answer, they can refer back to the appropriate video tutorial. Once badges for each section and level have been earned, a new ‘Challenge’ is unlocked. Badges are prominently displayed to help users keep track of their learning.

In the practice section, learners can use the built-in calculator function. The icon with a question mark provides hints for learners.

In the practice section, learners can use the built-in calculator function. The icon with a question mark provides hints for learners.

Badges help learners keep track of their learning

Badges help learners keep track of their learning

Innovative Features

The app was developed collaboratively by learners and tutors and was designed to help adults see the relevance of maths to their everyday lives through interactive tools they can use to carry out common types of calculation. Users can test themselves to gain social media badges, and time themselves in doing calculations to assess whether they could complete a formal assessment and compete with other learners online. The use of gaming principles encourages them to continue learning.

The app is downloadable and can be used in offline settings, including in places with poor internet connectivity. The code has been published at www.mathschampions.net, with all learning videos posted on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCV-Y24-8LLU7WlTc7S4CYow) so anyone can re-develop, re-use or re-purpose under a Creative Commons licence . The licence permits other users or programme developers to build upon the app legally and to share under ‘all rights reserved’ copyright management (Creative Commons, 2013).

With push-messaging technology, learners can easily connect with providers in their local area and can receive further information, as well as face-to-face support.

Recruitment and Training of Facilitators

The app is being further developed, with larger-scale trials planned to test its use in various learning contexts, namely self-directed, unsupported learning, and blended learning with face-to-face input from providers and virtual support. It has been designed both as a stand-alone tool which can be used without tutor support and as a resource which can be used to supplement and support courses of various types.

Enrolment of Learners

Learners are generally referred to the app by their tutors, though a number have downloaded it for their own, unsupported use.

Assessment of Learning Outcomes by Students

The learner is assessed at each level, gaining a social media badge when they complete the beginning, intermediate and advanced levels under each section. Each badge has been carefully developed to match the competencies described by the UK’s functional skills curriculum. Learners can choose how to display or share these badges through social media tools such as Facebook or use them as proofs of competence for employers or providers.

Monitoring and Evaluation

Small-scale trials with learners were carried out during the development phase of the programme. Learners provided very positive feedback and anecdotal evidence of the impact on learning attainment. Larger-scale trails are now being carried out in partnership with three other learning providers. The results will be published in autumn 2014.

Programme Impact and Challenges

Impact and Achievements

Some 2,500 learners have so far downloaded the app and there is strong anecdotal evidence of the progress they have made in improving their numeracy skills. NIACE-led activity has increased the number of providers involved in the programme. At the same time, NIACE has made the app freely available to other learning providers, many of whom are gathering their own evidence of impact, with some planning to re-develop or relocate sections of the learning tool to reflect the needs of their learners.

Lessons Learned

The lessons learned over the course of the programme include:

Sustainability

Maths Everywhere can be used in various ways. The app was designed to meet the needs of diverse groups of learners, so that it could be effectively embedded within different pedagogical models. As a result, teachers and facilitators worldwide can use parts or all of the curriculum content within their own virtual learning environments, or direct their learners to use it as a tool for collaboration with their peers, a means of consolidating existing knowledge, or as part of a blended learning programme to support sustainable use.

By making the app available as an open educational resource, NIACE is encouraging providers to re-develop it to suit their own needs, by adding different questions, translating to other languages, running on different platforms, or developing tools for different audiences. In this way, the app will be continuously refreshed and sustained. In the longer run, it will be possible to use the app in a wide range of learning contexts, including offender learning, financial literacy and vocational learning.

Sources

Contact

Susan Easton
Head of Learning for and with Technology
NIACE
21 De Montfort Street
Leicester
LE1 7GE
United Kingdom
Email: susan.easton (at) niace.org.uk
Tel: +44 07795 227283
Web: http://www.niace.org.uk