Operation Maths – Improving standardised test scores?

Operation Maths – Improving standardised test scores?

Two days after the maths standardised tests were done in our school, a teacher on my staff came to me to let me know that 18 children in her room had gone up by a STen of 1 or more, a fact she was attributing to Operation Maths, which was being used throughout the school for the first time, since the previous September.

This information made me curious to see were there similar results in other class levels; below is a summary table of my findings:

Average Percentile for each class level, current and previous years in Drumcondra Primary Mathematics Test – Revised (DPMT-R):

Current Class 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 Difference 2016 to 2017
2nd 55 61 +6 PR
3rd 63 61 77 +16 PR
4th 66 61 70 79 +9 PR
5th 63 61 58 68 68 +0 PR
6th 42 53 73 75 75 75 +0 PR

These results only include the classes that had a previous DPMT-R to which a comparison could be made. Also, they are the average of all the children’s results that completed the tests in each year, therefore other variables like children of different ability joining or leaving the school hasn’t been accounted for. However, they do make for interesting reading, while also raising interesting questions:

  • 2nd, 3rd and 4th have made significant jumps, (3rd class in particular); could this be accredited to the Operation Maths programme (there were no other new initiatives this past year due to the freeze on the SIP for numeracy as directed by our union)?
  • 5th and 6th classes stayed the same; why wasn’t the programme as effective for these classes? In the case of this school, perhaps the scores being already quite high in those classes meant there was little room for improvement. Or perhaps, because Operation Maths is a radically different programme, one that requires an openness to change the way we think about maths, it has more impact on younger classes where the children are more malleable and less rigid in their way of thinking than some of the older students. If this is the case, could we then expect to see improved results also for 5th and 6th class students in the future when they have been using the programme from 2nd and 3rd class?


Of course, this is only a small insight into one school’s experiences, and to have more conclusive results, data would need to be collected from a wider range of schools and this data would need to be monitored over time to see if these results were maintained. However, it does raise some interesting questions, and does indeed appear to indicate tentative evidence that Operation Maths can have a positive impact on the standardised test scores of all the children in a class. That said, improving test scores was never the main goal of Operation Maths, rather the aim is for the children to understand maths, not just do maths.  And if standardised test scores increase simultaneously, then that indeed is a positive bonus!

Did you use Operation Maths for the first time this year? Have you seen any similar trends with classes in your school? Please share with us!

Post script: Some may also suggest that Operation Maths has question items that better prepare the children for those in the test (i.e. teaching to the test). Having deliberately tried to be as unfamiliar as possible with the  DPMT-R test when authoring Operation Maths, means I can’t comment either way as I just don’t know if the question items resemble test items. Personally, I have no experience of the SigmaT at all, and at the time of authoring Operation Maths,  the only DPMT-R that I had administered in the previous 6-8 years was the DPMT-R for 5th class.