A study by Edinburgh-based education technology company Sumdog has found that regular usage of its online maths learning system has contributed to a reduction in the attainment gap for numeracy in Glasgow by 20% during the 2017-18 school year.
Researchers Dr Sara Humphries and Jona Duka studied the progress of pupils using Sumdog Maths for at least 30 minutes per week between August 2017 and April 2018, comparing the performance of pupils from the most deprived Glasgow schools with those from the city’s least deprived schools (defined by the proportion of pupils in each school eligible for free school meals). The aim of the study was to measure the impact of regular use of Sumdog Maths on closing the poverty-related attainment gap for numeracy.
The progress of pupils who use Sumdog Maths regularly was measured over the course of the academic year, with pupils using the online learning system for an average of 47 minutes a week. At the beginning of the school year in August 2017, the attainment gap between the least and most deprived schools was the equivalent of 1.1 academic years. However, for those pupils regularly using Sumdog, this gap had shrunk by 20% to the equivalent of just 0.8 of an academic year by April 2018 [see Figure 1 below and attached].
For the purposes of the study, out of a total of 70 schools in the Glasgow City Council area, the researchers identified a subset of 35 schools, including 737 pupils from the least deprived schools and a further 684 pupils from the most deprived schools. Each pupil undertook an adaptive diagnostic test to determine their individual abilities, which resulted in every pupil being allocated a ‘Sumdog level’. The Sumdog level was compared at the start and end of the study.
Publication of the study follows recently released Scottish Government figures showing an increase in the percentage of school leavers from the most deprived communities going on to work, training or further study, hailed by Education Secretary John Swinney as a “real improvement” in efforts to close the poverty-related attainment gap.
Concerning the results of the Sumdog effectiveness study, Sumdog CEO Andrew Hall said:
“Sumdog’s core mission is to help close the attainment gap between children from the least and most deprived backgrounds, a mission we are proud to share with Glasgow City Council, with local authorities throughout Scotland, and with the Scottish Government.
“This research provides compelling evidence of the effectiveness of Sumdog as an intervention targeted at achieving that goal.
“We look forward to continuing to work closely with schools across Glasgow until the poverty-related attainment gap has been completely eliminated.”
Now used in over 70% of Scottish schools, Sumdog Maths has been designed to engage pupils more fully with maths and numeracy learning, with particular attention paid to helping those who find the subjects challenging. In Glasgow, Argyll & Bute, Inverclyde, North Lanarkshire and Dundee, Sumdog is working directly with councils to provide local authority coverage.
Since August of last year, all Glasgow school pupils from P2 to S3 have had full access to Sumdog’s digital learning system. During that time, teachers have also been given extensive training on how to make the most of Sumdog as a teaching tool.
Executive Director of Education for Glasgow City Council Maureen McKenna commented:
“The evidence from the Sumdog study is a very promising indication of the significant role technology can play in narrowing the poverty-related attainment gap in numeracy and other subjects as well.
“Innovative interventions which are engaging as well as educational will be key to helping Glasgow’s children and young people reach their full potential, while ensuring that Glasgow City Council achieves its goal of helping to close the poverty-related attainment gap.”