UCL Institute of Education

UCL Institute of Education (IOE) is a world leading centre for education research and teacher education and training.

Since 2014 Mathematics Education researchers from the department of Curriculum, Pedagogy and Assessment at the IOE have undertaken a number of research and initial teacher education (ITE) projects for the FMSP, which have helped inform and support the FMSP's work.

Increasing Girls' Participation in Mathematics

Female entries to A level Mathematics and Further Mathematics are approximately 40% and 30% respectively of the cohorts each year taking these subjects. The IOE carried out a literature review of recent research on gendered participation and performance in order to identify strategies for promoting A level participation amongst female students. Case study research investigated departmental culture and strategies in five schools and colleges that are making an impact on girls' participation in mathematics.

The outcomes of the literature review and the interim report of the case studies have been combined in a briefing document for schools and colleges which recommends approaches that have been effective. The FMSP is currently working with the IOE on a pilot project with 5 schools, investigating the impact of different approaches on girls' and boys' participation in A level Mathematics.

Gender and participation in mathematics and further mathematics A-levels: a literature review for the FMSP, Cathy Smith (2014).

Gender and participation case studies interim report: interim report by UCL IOE on five case studies conducted on behalf of the FMSP, Cathy Smith & Jennie Golding (2015).

Gender and participation case studies final report: final report on five case studies, Cathy Smith & Jennie Golding (2017).

Girls' participation in A level Mathematics and Further Mathematics: briefing document for school leaders, heads of mathematics departments, school governors and other interested stakeholders, Claire Baldwin, Kevin Lord & Cathy Smith (2016).

Raising girls' participation in A-level mathematics: initial findings from 'good practice' case studies: short research paper presented at the BSRLM day conference, Cathy Smith and Jennie Golding (2015).

The participation of girls in further mathematics: article in The Institute of Mathematics and Its Applications (IMA) Mathematics TODAY, Claire Baldwin, Sue de Pomerai & Cathy Smith (2016)

Further information on the work of the FMSP to increase girls' participation in advanced mathematics is in the teachers' section of the FMSP website Encouraging Girls To Take Mathematics.

Wider School Benefits of Introducing Further Mathematics

In 2015 the IOE undertook research into the wider benefits of introducing A level Further Mathematics looking at 4 institutions that had recently established Further Mathematics with support from the FMSP. The report outlines the factors which were important in the successful implementation of the curriculum changes. The researchers found evidence of effects on teacher identity and confidence, departmental identity and attitudes to mathematics, and changes in pedagogy not just for A level but lower down the school.

Summary of Wider Effects of Introducing FM report: summary report, Jennie Golding & Cathy Smith (2016).

Full Report of Wider Effects of Introducing FM: full report, Jennie Golding & Cathy Smith (2016).

Wider school effects of introducing a higher level mathematics course with flexible support: initial findings from case studies: short research paper presented at the BSRLM day conference, Jennie Golding & Cathy Smith (2015).

Initial Teacher Education focus on A level Mathematics


The IOE have designed, piloted and developed a flexible course for Initial Teacher Education (ITE) students to develop their A level Mathematics pedagogy and subject knowledge. The Advanced Mathematics Teaching in Early Career (AMTEC) course consists of a suite of units covering A level subject knowledge, pedagogy and classroom management. The course has been successfully delivered to over 300 ITE students and newly qualified teachers (NQTs) since 2015. The units allow for flexible delivery and can be incorporated into existing courses, delivered via an online classroom over a number of sessions or as part of a more intensive 3-day course.

The materials are freely available to all ITE providers. Anyone interested in using the materials should contact Cathy Smith, [email protected] or Nicola Bretscher, [email protected] at the IOE.

Details of future AMTEC courses can be found here

Assessing Semi-Structured Problems in Advanced Mathematics

New A level and GCSE specifications include semi-structured problems designed to assess problem solving and reasoning. This project aimed to identify the knowledge, skills and beliefs that beginner teachers bring to these enhanced demands for reasoning and problem solving. Researchers designed and developed an assessment workshop that supported teachers to articulate principles for resolving tensions between validity, reliability, mathematical values and student inclusion. Teachers started to rehearse formative classroom strategies for supporting students in exploration, persistence and written reasoning.

Beginner Mathematics Teachers Learning To Teach and Assess Advanced Problem Solving: final report, Jennie Golding & Cathy Smith (2016).

Beginner mathematics teachers assessing advanced problem solving: what do they bring, what do they need, and how can the gap be bridged?: short research paper presented at the BSRLM day conference, Jennie Golding & Cathy Smith (2016).

Teaching A level Mathematics in Early Career

Secondary initial teacher training focuses on two key stages (predominantly Key Stage 3 and 4 in mathematics). Hence experience of teaching A level during training is a subsidiary, variable element that depends on ITE programme, school placement etc.

The IOE investigated the benefits and inhibiting factors of teaching A level Mathematics during training and NQT years of five teachers who followed three different routes into teaching. Each of the case study teachers had some responsibility for teaching A level Mathematics in their NQT year. One of the findings was that for some of these well-qualified teachers, experiences of teaching A-level during early career were critical in retaining them within the education sector.

Teaching A-level mathematics in early career: final report, Cathy Smith & Jennie Golding (2017).

Teaching A-level mathematics in early career (the case of Anna): short research paper presented at the BSRLM day conference, Jennie Golding & Cathy Smith (2015).