The Prevalence and Use of Textbooks and Curriculum Resources in Primary Mathematics

Research output: Book/ReportProject report


This project focuses on teaching and learning in primary mathematics (5–11-year-olds) in England. Following longstanding concerns about mathematics attainment and drawing on evidence from international comparisons of teaching practices in high-performing jurisdictions, the Department for Education (DfE) invested substantial funding from 2016 – instigated through the National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics (NCETM) and its Maths Hubs – in providing primary schools in England with support to purchase DfE-approved textbook-schemes for teaching mathematics.

This was a bold and interesting move. Textbook use is somewhat controversial in primary mathematics in England, with textbooks tending to take a marginal role rather than being the main basis for instruction. Primary teachers have traditionally curated curriculum resources from a range of places. While there has been some concern about the quality of some resources, there has been little focus on developing high quality primary mathematics textbooks. Previously available textbooks were assessed as unstructured, simple, and routine, with a focus on repetition of procedures rather than application and investigation. Concerns have been such that the Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills(Ofsted) in its earlier inspections suggested teachers were over-reliant on such textbooks.

The DfE initiative to bring textbook-schemes into schools represents a substantial change, organisationally, culturally, and pedagogically, from what was happening in many primary schools. With no recent research to help us understand how such textbook-schemes might be received in England, or the broader landscape of teachers’ mathematics curriculum resource choices into which they are being parachuted, the DfE initiative raised many questions.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherNuffield Foundation
Number of pages118
Publication statusPublished - 30 Mar 2023


  • Mathematics education
  • primary education
  • Survey
  • Curriculum
  • policy implementation


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