Personal profile

Scholarly biography

Dr Nancy Barclay is a Principal Lecturer in Mathematics Education specialising in primary mathematics education. She has held course leadership positions of Assistant Programme leader for the Primary PGCE programme and Course leader for the Primary Mathematics Specialist Teacher Programme, designing and developing the latter from its inception in 2010.

Nancy has significant and continuing experience of teaching mathematics education on undergraduate and postgraduate programmes and currently also supervises the education research of MA, PhD and EdD students.

Nancy completed her professional doctorate in 2018. Her research illuminated the important mathematical contributions that lower attaining primary school pupils can make in mixed attainment mathematics activity. Since completing her doctorate Nancy has been involved in three funded research projects: a research review of BSRLM Conference Proceedings (2003-2017); a case study exploring the use of mathematics textbooks by primary NQTs; and an Education Endowment Fund review of the international evidence into best-practice for improving mathematics teaching in the Early Years and Key Stage 1. These completed projects together with current research is detailed below.

Nancy is currently Quality Assurance lead for the School of Education and is a member of the School leadership Group. Amongst other duties she chairs the school’s Quality and Standards Committee. Prior to joining the university, Nancy was a local authority primary mathematics consultant. She is also an experienced primary school teacher.

Research interests

My research focuses on the teaching and learning of primary mathematics, including the impact of policy on classroom mathematical activity. My particular interests are in the social context of primary mathematics learning, including the role of dialogue in learning.

I was awarded the Janet Duffin prize 2021 for the paper making the most important contribution to the journal Research in Mathematics Education for a paper published following my doctoral research.

Current research projects

  • Co-Investigator: The prevalence and constitution of ‘new wave’ primary mathematics textbook use in England. (Nuffield foundation)

Previous research projects

  • Co-authored review of international evidence for the Education Endowment Foundation review: Improving Mathematics in the Early Years and Key Stage 1: Evidence Review.
  • Co- Investigator: Research review of the British Society for Research into Learning Mathematics [BSRLM] Conference Proceedings (2003-2017)
  • Co-Investigator: Examining newly qualified teachers’ use of textbooks to support a mastery approach to mathematics teaching in the primary school: a case-study.

Supervisory Interests

My supervisory interests encompass a range of topics within primary mathematics pedagogy and the application of policy in the primary classroom. I have a particular interest in social factors influencing the learning of mathematics and issues of equity in mathematics learning particularly relating to the learning experiences of those identified as lower attaining. I am also interested in reserach focusing on school governance and school improvement and research from a critical realist perspective. I am interested in supervision of research which utilises  qualitative and mixed methods approaches as well as that utilisting large quantitative data sets.

Current and recent supervision at Masters and Doctoral level includes collaborative teacher learning in primary schools, the development of fluency in calculation in primary school mathematics, mathematics anxiety in high school students, primary school leadership in response to inspection, values in secondary mathematics education.

Approach to teaching

My teaching of both adult and child learners is underpinned by the view that everyone can learn and enjoy mathematics. Building on my knowledge and experience from classroom teaching, consultancy and research, I promote collaboration in my seminar sessions, prioritising practical activity and dialogue to support learning and to foster the development of my students’ confidence in their own mathematical thinking. Reading and analysis of research and theory is a further central component of my seminar sessions; the development of confident critical engagement with literature enabling students to develop their own academic voice and providing a solid foundation for pedagogic decision making.

Knowledge exchange

Executive Board Member and Treasurer, British Society for Research into Learning Mathematics (BSRLM) (2019 – 2022)


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