Is Boosting Maths Confidence the Key to Student Success? Insights from new research


Just as Rishi Sunak reinforced his view that mathematics should be taught in schools in England until the age of 18, our YouGov survey of over 1,000 teachers has highlighted the obstacles and struggles faced by students when it comes to learning maths – as well as what teachers believe can turn the situation around.

Key Findings:
  1. Confidence as a Barrier

Over half (57%) of teachers identified confidence as the primary barrier to students’ enjoyment of mathematics. This revealed the emotional aspect of learning, emphasising the need to build a positive and supportive environment to boost students’ confidence in tackling maths challenges.

  1. Real-world Applications and Societal Perceptions

55% of teachers pointed to students not recognising the real-world applications and benefits of mathematics as a significant barrier. Additionally, 46% noted a societal culture that accepts struggling with maths as a hindrance. Addressing these issues is crucial to fostering a deeper appreciation for the subject.

  1. Maths Anxiety Can Also Affect Teachers

30% of teachers said they would feel uncomfortable solving a maths problem in front of students, indicating that maths anxiety is not limited to pupils.

  1. Parental Influence

Nearly a third (32%) of teachers reported frequently hearing parents speak negatively about maths. Parental attitudes play a crucial role in shaping a child’s perception of mathematics, making it essential to involve families in fostering a positive learning environment.

  1. Teacher-Recommended Solutions

39% of teachers believe that more engaging classroom and homework resources would significantly improve students’ maths learning experiences, while 27% of teachers highlighted the importance of personalised maths practice. Tailoring learning experiences to individual student needs is seen as a key strategy to overcome barriers and promote inclusive learning.

This new research follows the recent publication of the first in a series of reports from ϾƷ and the Education Policy Institute looking at post-COVID learning recovery. It revealed that maths outcomes for primary-aged children remained just below pre-pandemic levels by the end of the autumn term (2022/23) – equivalent to just under 1.5 months’ worth of learning. Outcomes for younger year groups are even further behind pre-pandemic norms, which compares to the average in reading that have largely recovered in primary schools.

Responding to the survey findings, former-teacher and ϾƷ Consultant Frances Kingston, said: “Numeracy skills are an essential part of everyday life, whether we are paying bills, measuring ingredients for cooking, or helping our children with their homework. But this research highlights an ongoing lack of confidence in maths across the population.

“To change the narrative, we support teachers and parents in their efforts to engage children with the subject from an early age and boost their confidence. By establishing a more positive message around maths, we can help dispel the idea that some people have a brain for maths and others don’t.

“Through active hands-on learning, accessing the right resources and harnessing engaging technology such as Freckle, we can all help children feel more confident in the subject.”

Martin Kelsey, Executive Headteacher at The Raglan Schools, added: “We want all our teachers to feel empowered to teach maths and inspire our students to have a passion for the subject. Teachers, especially at primary schools, have many subjects and curricula to work through. ϾƷ’s tools help our teachers monitor student comprehension and progress of the topic, while ensuring each student has a truly tailored learning experience.”

Following a decade’s use of Star Reading and Accelerated Reader from ϾƷ, Martin and his team decided to explore whether ϾƷ’s Star Maths and Freckle could have a similar impact on student outcomes in Years 5 and 6. In July 2022 he first shared these results in a dedicated Twitter thread: “We asked select classes to participate in the Freckle trial throughout the 21-22 academic year – and when we looked at the data, we were pleasantly surprised with what we saw. The blue line represents children who used Freckle, who started the year with an average Scaled Score of 676, and the orange line represents non-Freckle users who had an average SS of 709.”

“As you can see from scores in the combined chart, those receiving maths practice from Freckle throughout the academic year made nearly twice the progress of their peers who did not use the program.” You can read Martin’s full story in this blog post.

A global education technology provider for nearly 40 years, ϾƷ is committed to accelerating learning for all through the development of innovative solutions that support teaching and learning to improve student outcomes. As Martin mentions, Freckle has been making a significant impact in overcoming the challenges highlighted in the survey and is boosting the maths confidence of students, supporting teachers and engaging parents.

For Jade Rough, a teacher at Lewis Girls Comprehensive School, “Freckle’s true superpower lies in its ability to adapt to each learner’s skills and needs. Just as a skilled guide tailors a journey to match their travellers’ pace, Freckle tailored its content to match the skills and knowledge of every student. This exceptional personalisation mirrored the format of national testing, ensuring a seamless transition for students and reinforcing their confidence.”

Meanwhile, Jodie Bailey, who teaches at Windsor Park CE Middle School, welcomes the fact that: “Freckle places all students at their personal level, allowing students who need more support to start where they need to, build confidence, and feel progress.” Like Martin, she has also seen a positive impact on student outcomes: “In 2022, our SATs results were exceptional, with 90% of our students achieving the expected standard for mathematics – the best results we’ve seen on record. The success we’ve seen in our SATs results in a testament to the effectiveness of Freckle in supporting and enhancing student learning and performance.”

Freckle is more than just an online maths practice tool; it’s a game-changer in maths education. The platform’s adaptability, engagement features, and personalised approach are reshaping how students learn and excel in mathematics. It seamlessly integrates with Star Maths, providing a powerful combination to efficiently assess students’ abilities and track their progress over time, while also identifying the Focus Skills to accelerate learning.

Furthermore, the latest KS3 content update to Freckle brings an enriched learning experience with unlimited self-paced practice, teacher assignment and planning tools with detailed reporting, and more than 3,000 new differentiated questions aligned to the national curriculum. It now offers engaging self-motivating maths practice tasks spanning all numeracy domains and the capability to identify prerequisite skills, ensuring personalised learning that matches each student’s unique level of understanding. Learn more in .

For more information on Freckle, please visit:

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