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Primary schools needed to take part in early numeracy study run by the University of Nottingham

Thursday, 23 March 2023

Primary schools are invited to take part in a University of Nottingham study to trial whether a new approach to numeracy might improve Reception children’s attainment in maths.

Schools are being recruited in three areas of England: North East (Sunderland, Co. Durham and South Tyneside), East Midlands (Derby, Derbyshire, Nottingham, Nottinghamshire), and the South West (Cornwall and Devon).

Experts at the University of Nottingham, led by Dr Catherine Gripton in the School of Education, have developed the Counting Collections programme and will support schools to use it in classrooms. To date there is limited, small-scale evidence of this approach in the UK, with existing evidence coming from trials in New Zealand and the USA.

Counting Collections is a hands-on early mathematics approach to develop children’s number sense (understanding of number and quantity). It involves children using containers of objects to find how many are in the collection. Children work in pairs to choose, strategise, count and record how many items there are. They do this in weekly Counting Collections sessions of around 30 minutes.

Participating schools will be split into two groups in order for the difference in learning approaches and attainment to be analysed. Schools will either receive £200 or £500, dependant on which group they are allocated, and the participating teachers will receive three days of professional development training.

The study will assess whether and to what extent Counting Collections has an impact on Reception pupils’ attainment in number, as measured by the Sandwell Early Numeracy test (SENT-R). This analysis will show impact on all children, including those eligible for Free School Meals.

The study is funded by the Education Endowment Foundation, as part of the Department for Education’s Accelerator Fund, which is commissioning a number of trials of programmes that show promise for increasing pupil attainment.

Dr Catherine Gripton resize
Children’s early attainment in number predicts their later maths attainment in school. The Counting Collections programme aims to address the inequities in pre-school number experiences by ensuring that all children systematically receive regular counting experiences with physical manipulatives.
Dr Catherine Gripton, Assistant Professor in Primary Education

Dr Gripton continued: "These early number experiences are too important to miss, particularly for children who might not have received them from home or pre-school provision. This trial will shed light on how we might implement a Counting Collections approach in classrooms and enable us to understand more thoroughly the underlying mechanisms that generate impact.”

Participating schools will receive a full set of resources for the Reception classroom: 80 boxes containing inviting objects to count and resources to aid counting (such as frames, pots and number tracks). These resources create a ‘counting library’ which teachers add to the classroom’s continuous provision. Children can access this provision during play, allowing additional opportunities for number assessment and interaction.

Schools interested in joining the study can visit the website to find out more or email

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For interested schools, contact:

For media enquiries, more information is available from Dr Catherine Gripton in the School of Education at

Katie Andrews - Media Relations Manager for the Faculty of Social Sciences
Phone: 0115 951 5751

Notes to editors:

About the University of Nottingham

Ranked 32 in Europe and 16th in the UK by the QS World University Rankings: Europe 2024, the University of Nottingham is a founding member of the Russell Group of research-intensive universities. Studying at the University of Nottingham is a life-changing experience, and we pride ourselves on unlocking the potential of our students. 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.

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