Let’s Think Early Years

Description of the innovation

The Let’s Think Maths approach to mathematics teaching was introduced into four Reception classrooms, providing a professional development programme across the 2018–19 academic year. Teachers also received two coaching visits in their own schools and received a Let’s Think teacher pack with activity plans and resources. The four teachers taught Let’s Think activities to up to 13 pupils within each of their classes on a weekly basis over the course of approximately nine months. Pupils experienced a series of guided, small group activities, alongside their usual maths curriculum, using problem solving, social construction and metacognition.

Summary of the evaluation

Four Reception classes in four inner-city London primary schools across Southwark were involved in the intervention, in which between 10 and 13 pupils in each class acted as the intervention cohort, while the other pupils in their class acted as within-class controls. A further four Southwark primary schools acted as school-level controls.

Pre-testing of all pupils was carried out using the Piagetian Spatial Relations Test, which was repeated with all pupils at the end of the year. Early Years Foundation Stage scores were also compared for control and intervention groups within intervention classes. Intervention and control group teachers completed questionnaires about their views and expectations of Reception pupils’ mathematics capacity.

Summary of findings

Intervention pupils made more progress on the Piagetian Reasoning Test: Spatial Awareness than within-class controls, but intervention classes made less progress than control classes. The reasons for these unexpected findings are unclear, but hypotheses include lack of comparability across control and intervention classes and the intervention taking place over one academic year rather than two years, as is more typical in Let’s Think evaluations.

Questionnaire data suggested that intervention teachers’ understanding of children’s mathematical capacity increased over the year. Intervention teachers reported feeling more confident teaching maths; using more challenging activities; allowing the children more time to think, talk, listen and reflect on their learning; and having a greater focus on engagement and participation in children’s learning at the end of the intervention.

Limitations of the study include the low reliability of early years teacher assessment data. There were also some issues with the teacher questionnaire which may have led to incorrect scoring.

Lead school

  • Charles Dickens Primary, London

Main findings

  • Mean progress in spatial reasoning made by intervention group pupils = +0.58
  • Mean progress in spatial reasoning made by within-class control group pupils = +0.54
  • Mean progress in spatial reasoning made by control group pupils = +0.71

Download the protocol document