Research & Development

Numicon: Closing the Gap


2014 Closing the Gap project

Focus: Pupil Premium students at Cosby Primary School

Lead: Tracey Withers, Headteacher


The Teaching Alliance was successful in its bid to participate in an ambitious and exciting project called “Closing the Gap: Test and Learn,” organised by the National College. The project provides grants to enable schools and teachers to be involved in this rigorous national research project.

The goal is to help improve the evidence-base for which interventions are effective in closing the attainment gap for disadvantaged pupils and also to stimulate robust research and development in schools.

Over 750 schools, representing 190 teaching school alliances are participating in the scheme over the next two years to test interventions that may help to close the attainment gap.

After a consultation, 7 interventions were identified, which are considered to have the potential to improve learning and outcomes for the most vulnerable children and young people. These are being tested through the project.

Interventions allocated to various national teaching schools and their partners:

  • 1st Class @ Number

  • Inference training

  • Achievement for All

  • Growth mindsets (Thomas Estley Community College 2014/15)

  • Numicon (Cosby Primary School 2013/14)

  • Response to Intervention (RTI)

  • Research Lesson Study (RLS)

Numicon is a multi-sensory approach which uses apparatus to consolidate children’s understanding of number representation. The programme of activities with Numicon shapes and rods helps children understand number relationships, spot patterns and make generalisations. The Numicon shapes and rods help teachers and children to communicate their ideas. Children are encouraged to work together on activities which emphasise applying understanding to solve problems.

With Year 3 as a focus, the whole cohort undertook a national test at the beginning of the project. The analysis from the test enabled staff to identify a focus group as well as potential gaps in the mathematical understanding of the whole cohort.

The focus group consisted of the lowest performing 8 children, 7 of whom were on the SEN register and 3 pupil premium. The group took part in a twelve week programme which was followed by a final assessment, the analysis of which fed into the national research.




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Involvement in the research project provided the following:

  • The opportunity for a target group of pupils to experience an intervention which has been identified as having potential to narrow the gaps in a priority subject for the school.

  • Training and resources to develop staff’s capacity to use the intervention with target pupils both during the trial and more widely across the school in the future.

  • Training and resources to develop staff’s capacity to collect and analyse high quality impact data and use other rigorous enquiry processes for practice and school development purposes.

  • Access to tools and resources after the trial period.

  • The opportunity to learn with and from other schools tackling similar issues and trialling the same or different approaches.

  • Access to good quality diagnostic information about vulnerable pupils from the assessments being used.

  • The opportunity to contribute to and gain feedback from a national research project about what works to close the gap.


Outcomes from involvement in the project include the following:

  • Enhanced enjoyment of, and enthusiasm for, maths – with pupils demonstrating greater determination to persevere until they understand. Children involved in the project regularly ask, “Are we doing Numicon today?”

  • Increased confidence for the weakest pupils.

  • Structured opportunity to go back and fill in gaps in knowledge to give a firmer foundation in mathematical understanding.

  • Visual representation has been of real benefit to children who have struggled with understanding mathematical concepts – what appeared to be abstract has become concrete.

  • Accelerated progress for children in the focus group; children who had made less than expected progress in the previous year, now making expected progress and more pupils working at age related expectations in maths.