Nottingham research helps move maths app from Africa to schools in the UK

03 Dec 2018 14:45:32.843

 A transformative educational app developed by onebillion that was researched by the University of Nottingham has moved from trials in Africa to schools across England.

Professor Nicola Pitchford from the University of Nottingham has led the research for this project and joined International Development Minister Harriett Baldwin at a school to see the onebillion app in action, helping children improve their numeracy skills.  

onebillion is a tablet-based app that uses simple activities to help schoolchildren improve their numeracy and literacy. 

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Developed by British non-profit onebillion and supported by UK aid through Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO),the project was initially trialled in Malawi. Now through the University of Nottingham, 70 primary schools cross England, including 15 schools in Nottingham are using the app every day. 

Truly transformative

International Development Minister Harriett Baldwin said: “It was fascinating to be part of a lesson taught entirely using the onebillion app, it was clear that this technology is truly transformative for both the pupils and the teachers. 

“This innovative project is not only empowering schoolchildren in African countries, it is also a demonstration of UK aid working for taxpayers as schools across England are also benefiting from this British innovation. 

“The onebillion app is a win for school children across England and a win for school children in Malawi.”

Minister Baldwin joined a lesson with Year 1 and 2 pupils (aged 5-6 years), the children were taught a maths lesson through the app. 

The platform teaches core topics in the national curriculum and pupils progress through topics on their own and at their own pace. The app demonstrates how to complete exercises, then pupils practice the exercises themselves. This form of individualised learning allows children to be taught at the right level.

Careful testing and observation

During trials in Malawi, research found that children using the app daily made the same progress in maths in eight weeks as they would have been expected to after 12 months of teaching. 

The research was then brought to the UK by Professor Pitchford and PhD student, Laura Outhwaite who is also supervised by Educational Psychologist Anthea Gulliford from the School of Psychology at the University of Nottingham.  

The University of Nottingham research team examined children using the onebillion maths app on tablets in the classroom. Using careful testing and observation methods before, during and after use it was found the children using the app improved their maths understanding much more quickly than with traditional classroom teaching alone. 

Professor Pitchford says: “The results from the initial research in Malawi showed that the app made a significant impact on the children’s learning in maths. It fuelled our interest in finding out if this app could be similarly effective in other countries. We started working in Nottingham with Dunkirk Primary School and Burton Joyce Primary School. Using the same methodology, we found that the effect on children using the app was the similar to that in Malawi. We then expanded further to 11 more Nottingham schools and every time we saw the same thing – children using the onebillion maths app were significantly improving their performance in maths, and not only that they were becoming more confident and enthusiastic learners. We believe this is because the app provides engaging, individualised content that the children work through at their own pace without the distractions and pressure of large group classroom teaching.” 


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Notes to editors: 

The University of Nottingham is a research-intensive university with a proud heritage, consistently ranked among the world's top 100. Studying at the University of Nottingham is a life-changing experience and we pride ourselves on unlocking the potential of our 44,000 students - Nottingham was named both Sports and International University of the Year in the 2019 Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide, was awarded gold in the TEF 2017 and features in the top 20 of all three major UK rankings. We have a pioneering spirit, expressed in the vision of our founder Sir Jesse Boot, which has seen us lead the way in establishing campuses in China and Malaysia - part of a globally connected network of education, research and industrial engagement. We are ranked eighth for research power in the UK according to REF 2014. We have six beacons of research excellence helping to transform lives and change the world; we are also a major employer and industry partner - locally and globally.

Impact: The Nottingham Campaign, its biggest-ever fundraising campaign, is delivering the University’s vision to change lives, tackle global issues and shape the future. More news…


Story credits

More information is available from Professor Nicola Pitchford, in the School of Psychology at the University of Nottingham on 0115 9515287 or

Jane Icke - Media Relations Manager (Faculty of Science)

Email: Phone: +44 (0)115 951 5751 Location: University Park

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