Psychology and Numeracy Research 2019

The Four Educational Psychology Services of the FVWL Regional Collaborative have combined their research efforts to produce this ground breaking report on the psychological factors of numeracy.

We found a parallel with the national GIRFEC practice model and the Ecological System theory by Bronfenbrenner. The 94 factors were categorised into 20  clusters and then three categories.

Individual factors

individual factors combined into 8 cluster factors that relate to individuals

Intersubjective Factors

 Contextual factors



This meta-study finds that, given the complexity and multitude of factors that influence numeracy development and mathematical attainment, Councils, the Regional Collaborative and Scottish Government need to find ways of:

  1. promoting long term duration of teacher pupil relationships,
  2. promoting whole school consistency and beyond in the teaching of mathematics
  3. consider the impact that relationships and attachment style may have on pupils’ numeracy development
  4. ensure that teacher led innovations occur in a culture of learning, knowledge and research and with reference to the existing evidence base on effective interventions
  5. Encouraging parents to become more involved in contributing to the development of concepts skills and knowledge which are fundamental to math but not necessarily math specific such as risk-taking behaviour, metacognition, self-regulation and beliefs about intelligence and mastery.
  6. Actively encourage collective teacher efficacy in a context that promotes sustainability of improvement in evidence based ways.

This highlights the need for a cultural change with regard to numeracy education to include funding, employment and training arrangements that promote the long term relationship with staff and pupils in schools, effective mathematics teaching, and recognise the impact of relationships and attachment style on pupils’ numeracy development. Implementing improvement needs sustainability and implementation of improvement to be considered as important as the specific mathematic concepts and knowledge in encouraging children to learn maths.

Our final recommendation is that there is a need for debate about practice and improvement at a strategic and practice level within the Regional Collaborative and the four education authorities.

Psychology and Numeracy

There are a number of psychology factors that are important in children learning numeracy concepts and skills.

The Educational Psychology Services across the regional collaborative have been engaging in collaborative research on numeracy. There are 4 projects and a meta analysis:

  1. Attachment and Numeracy, Clackmannanshire Council. This study involved a literature review of research into development of early years numeracy and its links with childhood development and particularly Attachment theory.
  2. Bridging the Gaps, Falkirk Council. This project focused on longitudinal analysis of pupil outcome data from an action research skills project, involving the Coach Consult method of professional learning, undertaken with teachers and managers from 12 schools, in 4 discrete projects during 2016/17.
  3. Meta Cognitive development, Stirling Council. This study involved a literature review of meta-cognitive aspects of numeracy development, which in turn is being used to contribute to a professional learning programme for teachers in early primary in Stirling Schools, using appreciative inquiry.
  4. Pupil Voice, West Lothian Council. This piece of research involved focus groups with 56 participants from 8 high schools. All were studying for National 5 Maths and in S4.

The meta analysis is only partially completed and has already identified 15 factors important for the development of numeracy.

The summary reports will be published on the National Improvement HUB in April 2019. The full reports will be published on the Blogs.

For further information contact your local Educational Psychology Service.