Centres for Excellence in Maths

CfEM leaflet preview

Centres for Excellence in Maths (CfEM) is a five-year national improvement programme aimed at delivering sustained improvements in maths outcomes for 16–19-year-olds, up to Level 2, in post-16 settings.

Funded by the Department for Education and delivered by the Education and Training Foundation, the programme is exploring what works for teachers and students, embedding related CPD and good practice, and building networks of maths professionals in colleges.

Download the CfEM Offer leaflet

In this section

If you require any further information about the programme, please do not hesitate to contact CfEM@etfoundation.co.uk for further information.

Theme 1: An adapted mastery approach to maths suitable for post-16

There are four key elements that work in Mastery should consider:

  1. a mastery approach
  2. a mastery curriculum
  3. mastery teaching
  4. achieving mastery.

Fundamental to a mastery approach is the belief by students, and their teachers, that with hard work all are capable of being successful at maths. In that sense, a can-do mastery approach should frame all maths education beliefs and practice; we will address this aspect of mastery through our work on motivation and engagement.

mastery curriculum is one that pays careful attention to

  • How resources are suitable for a variety of settings
  • How topics should be prioritised and organised
  • The amount of guidance provided, and flexibility allowed in curriculum specification
  • Teacher knowledge of students’ likely approaches to Maths and how to develop these in ways that increase insight into mathematical structure.

Mastery teaching involves pedagogic approaches that aim to enhance both understanding and fluency. This requires both:

  1. a) well-designed resources that support students to develop understanding that builds upon prior knowledge, and,
  2. b) teachers knowledge of pedagogies that capitalise on the opportunities these resources afford.

When achieving mastery, students work towards knowing ‘why’ things (will) work when they are doing maths rather than working on simply memorising procedures. This requires teaching mathematics for mastery.

We will work towards a well-designed and resourced mastery curriculum alongside professional development that enables the achievement of mastery.

CfEM Handbook

Other Resources and Tools 

Theme 2: Motivating and Engaging Learners

Motivation and engagement are often considered in conjunction with concepts such as beliefs, attitudes and emotions (such as self-efficacy and anxiety). There is much research and anecdotal evidence of GCSE re-sit students having negative responses in all or most of these areas. The work that addresses this theme should, therefore, engender positive emotions, provide additional motivation and lead to better engagement with learning maths. This requires a focus on:

  1. Classroom cultures that develop good relationships (teacher-student)
  2. Learning activities that relate to students’ interests
  3. Recognition of students’ ways of working in the main part of their study programme by reflecting this in their maths lessons (for example, encouraging active social involvement where necessary)
  4. Appropriate and achievable short-term goals that support a ‘growth mind-set’/’can do’ attitude and resilience; monitoring recognising/rewarding success in achieving these.
  5. Promoting positive images and the importance of maths across the whole college curriculum.

The aim will be to develop an approach to improving student motivation and engagement around these key elements.

CfEM Handbook

Motivation and Engagement Toolkit

Other Resources and Tools

Centre spotlights

Theme 3: Contextualisation

Contextualisation that relates maths to real-world situations should be a core aspect of maths courses designed to prepare students for using maths in their future workplaces and general life.

The capacity to successfully engage with such maths should be a core learning goal of students many of whom have vocational aspirations.

A well-designed and delivered contextualised approach to maths may be more likely to motivate students as they realise its practical usefulness and relevance to their other studies.

The initial aim will be to develop approaches that seek to:

  • Structure effective learning that draws on context(s) to enhance mathematical understanding (the Realistic Maths Education (RME) approach)
  • Support students’ comprehension, interpretation and metacognitive skills to support contextual problem-solving.

CfEM Handbook

Other Resources and Tools

Theme 4: Use of Technology and Data

There is a wide range of uses to which technology might be used in post-16 maths contexts up to level 2. Three strands of activity are proposed, each of which directly relates to classroom teaching and learning and with one also having a particular focus on providing data that can inform the programme’s wider work.

  1. Use technology to give students direct experience of maths in ways that are new to them. There are generic and bespoke maths applications that can provide dynamic access to mathematical ideas and structures. It is proposed to develop opportunities for students to experience this in a limited number of carefully targeted key areas.
  2. Further to 1, develop ‘flipped classroom’ approaches to learning where students use technology, particularly videos but also other technologies, in ways that allows class time to be used differently. This has the potential to allow students to develop deeper insight to the maths and achieve mastery.
  3. Finally, technology can be used by teachers for formative assessment.  For example, some software packages, when used with well-crafted diagnostic questions, allow teachers to identify students’ misconceptions and adapt their teaching in-the-moment.

Alternatively, technology can provide the same data but in a less immediate way providing more time for teacher reflection and preparation. There are possibilities for involving students individually with diagnoses of their own work and taking a more individual approach. This use of technology presents challenges for the effective use of what can be an overwhelming quantity of data. This is an issue that will be considered carefully.

There are many possible connections and overlaps between these themes. For example, it may be that the use of technology in a particular way provides motivation and the potential for greater than usual engagement for certain students.

It is likely, therefore, that there will be a small number of tools developed that are used across all the trials with others being bespoke to an approach in a particular theme. Such details will become apparent as the different approaches are considered and designed.

CfEM Handbook

Other Resources and Tools

Research, development and implementation

The Centre for Research in Maths Education at the University of Nottingham will lead the research, development and implementation of high-quality approaches to teaching maths in the Centres (and their wider networks), and in particular with respect to post-16 maths up to level 2.

This will involve trials of carefully designed approaches organised under four broad themes, leading to the generation of high quality, robust evidence. The key foci for the work of Centres and associated trials are summarised for each theme (mastery, motivating and engaging learners, contextualisation and use of technology and data). These priorities are based on existing literature and current research.

In selecting appropriate and workable approaches to trial in the 19-20 academic year, consideration has been given to appropriateness and workability of approaches leading to the development of a clear framework for college-based trials. Their priority throughout will be maths learning and provision in specifically timetabled maths lessons. This will be reviewed in future years to take account of emerging evidence and other potential avenues for exploration.

Core Themes of Activity

The programme is focussed primarily on four themes of activity:

Resources and Tools

Brand and style guidelines

Brand and style guidelines for use by delivery partners in the production of CfEM resources are now available. 

Centres for Excellence in Maths leaflet

Other relevant maths workforce development by the ETF

The ETF runs many other initiatives and programmes separate to the CfEM programme. These look to improve the maths workforce development in the FE sector, which some might find relevant for the CfEM work being done. These include:

  • The ETF’s CPD support for maths and CPD support for English teachers and trainers.
  • inTuition Maths supplement
    The special supplement of the Summer 2018 edition of the Society for Education and Training’s inTuition journal focused on maths. Read the supplement.
  • Potential benefits of teaching for maths mastery to adult learners highlighted on this webpage.
  • Support in developing learners’ embedded maths skills for practitioners delivering T Levels through the TLPD offer.