Over the past 30 years researchers at the Freudenthal Institute in The Netherlands have developed a mathematics curriculum and a theory of pedagogy known as Realistic Maths Education (RME). This curriculum uses realisable contexts to help pupils to develop mathematically, and has now been adopted by the vast majority of Dutch schools. Mathematically, The Netherlands is considered to be one of the highest achieving countries in the Western world.
In 1991, The University of Wisconsin, in collaboration with the Freudenthal Institute, started to develop a middle school curriculum based on RME. This curriculum is known as 'Maths in Context', and has now been adopted by numerous schools and districts across the US, with research suggesting significant gains in pupil achievement.
In 2003, The Centre for Maths Education at MMU purchased a set of MiC materials and trialled them with Year 7 classes in a local school. The reaction to the materials was extremely positive, and there was a real sense that this approach is worthy of continued exploration.
As a consequence of the above, Gatsby Charitable Foundation agreed to fund a 3 year project, beginning in September 2004, aimed at exploring the implementation of MiC in UK schools. Initially this involved a number of schools in the Manchester area, with staged introduction of the materials at Key Stage 3. The results were encouraging, and it was decided to expand the project
The pilot, in close collaboration with the Freudenthal Institute, developed and trialled materials for year 10 pupils working towards the foundation level GCSE, from September 2007. Phase 1 began in September 2007, with 6 schools. In September 2008 phase 2 will include 15 more secondary schools in the Greater Manchester Area.
The project aims to examine the effectiveness of RME in the UK setting, and also to consider the support needs of the teachers and pupils involved.
The intended Project outcomes, as identified in the original proposal, are set out below;
- To trial and evaluate a pedagogy of RME through the use of the Making Sense series
- To identify transfer and compatibility variables including the fit of Making Sense Series to the GCSE foundation syllabus.
- To identify significant teacher attitudes and skills required in this approach to teaching.
- To identify development needs of teachers utilising RME
- To develop materials including website and DVD to support teachers
- To establish a network of support to allow effective expansion of this approach nationally