Mathematics education

The Royal Society would like all young people to have a positive experience of learning mathematics and quantitative skills, understanding its value and importance. However, in order to engage students there needs to be a strong supply of teachers who are well-qualified, well-trained and involved in career-long, subject-specific professional development.

The jobs landscape of 2030 will require people to be highly adept at data analysis and computational thinking (problem-solving using computer science techniques), and mathematics has been demonstrated to be one of the best ways to improve such skills. Without joined-up, evidence-informed, transparent and well-designed policy, the improvements in mathematics teaching that are needed will not be achieved.

It is critical that sufficient time is given to the development of any new curriculum and assessment arrangements and ongoing formative evaluation of developments needs to be in place to steer improvements.

Royal Society Advisory Committee on Mathematics Education

The Royal Society Advisory Committee on Mathematics Education (ACME) oversees the delivery of a programme of activities aligned with the Society’s education Vision for science, mathematics and computing education.  The Committee oversees the Society's work providing authoritative and considered advice on high-level, cross-cutting issues in mathematics education and beyond.

Recent work

  • GCSE Mathematics resits - In 2021, RS ACME undertook a programme of work to examine the existing policy on GCSE resits which resulted in two Working Papers.
  • COVID-19 - In December 2020, the Society and the Joint Mathematical Council for the UK submitted a joint response to the Commons Education Committee Inquiry into the impact of COVID-19 on education and children's services. An overview of the submission is also available.

Past work

  • Mathematics Education Policy Conference - Held in 2018, this conference 'Working together: Mathematics Education in a changing landscape' provided an opportunity to discuss current and emerging areas of mathematics education policy. Please see the conference report (PDF) for more information.
  • Data Science - In 2018, the Society published a review of how data sciences skills are nurtured (PDF) in England's National Curriculum. The review examines the extent to which data science exists and is developed within the primary and secondary curriculum, focusing on computing, geography, history, mathematics, science and other data-rich subjects.
  • Teacher development - In 2016, the Society convened an expert panel to develop a report on Professional learning for all teachers of mathematics (PDF). The report sets out principles for teachers, senior leaders and those who commission and provide professional learning. There are also some online tools to support reflection on the development of mathematics-specific knowledge and how to foster mathematics-specific professional learning within schools and colleges. Cambridge Mathematics and the Wellcome Trust supported this project.
  • Assessment - In 2016, the Society published Problem solving in mathematics: realising the vision through better assessment (PDF). It considers the assessment of problem solving in public tests and examinations across all key stages of mathematical development and describes the desirable characteristics of questions used to assess problem solving. It also sets out actions for policymakers, awarding organisations and the mathematics community to ensure that improvements in the quantity and quality of problem solving in mathematics tests and assessments are realised over time.
  • Initial teacher education - In 2015, the Society published Beginning teaching: best in class? (PDF) The report urged for the articulation of a shared standard for the initial teacher education (ITE) of teachers of mathematics. Although the focus was on high-quality ITE, the project also identified some elements that could form part of a comprehensive plan to secure the future supply of teachers of mathematics. A number of activities were undertaken to inform the report, including a review of some elements of the ITE system in four jurisdictions (Germany, Massachusetts, Shanghai and Singapore).
  • Curriculum - In 2014, the Royal Society and the Royal Statistical Society worked together on a project looking at the statistical content and assessment of a selection of A Level qualifications. The aim of the project was to investigate how statistics was embedded within these qualifications and to identify further steps to ensure that students gain statistical literacy as they move into higher education and employment. The report, Embedding Statistics at A level (PDF) was published in 2015.
  • Curriculum - In 2011, the Society published a report called Mathematical Needs (PDF) which analysed the mathematical content of a range of university courses and found that there was a marked discrepancy between the number of courses requiring mathematical skills beyond GCSE and the number of people with these skills that the UK is producing.