Our trained volunteers support children in state primary schools who are struggling with maths.  Our focus is children in Years 2 and 3.

An in-school volunteer will run one-to-one sessions with each child for 20 to 30 minutes, once or twice weekly for a full school year.  Sessions take place in school but outside the classroom, during the normal school day.

All our volunteers are trained in the early years maths syllabus and in creative ways to engage young children with maths games and exercises. We have current and former teachers acting as mentors who deliver this training and give on-going support to our volunteers.

We provide training in safeguarding and we liaise with the school on DBS background checks.

Number Sense was founded in 2018 and is free to our partner schools during the second year of our pilot (2019-20). After that, as we expand across London and nationwide, we will charge a small fee per child each year.

If you are interested in becoming a Number Sense school, please have a look at our FAQs below, and then contact us, and we can discuss or send you more information as appropriate.


Headteachers raising hands to ask questions about becoming a Number Sense primary school

Which children do we support?

We work with children in school Years 2 and 3 since our initial research – and continuing feedback from our partner schools – indicates that there is already a strong need for help in maths at this age. By specialising, we can deliver better support.

The teachers select children who are keeping up in other subjects but are struggling with maths.  These are the most likely to benefit from the intervention.

What time do the sessions take place?

Exact times depend on the school and on the volunteer, but will be at some point during the school day.

In the first year of our pilot, one school has asked us to take children out of morning maths class so that they do not miss out on other subjects, while another has asked for the sessions to start immediately after lunch so that children do not miss the core subjects.  Other schools have been more flexible, but all schools generally want volunteers to commit to the same time each week.

We will do our best to twin ‘morning only’ volunteers with ‘morning’ schools and ‘afternoon only’ volunteers with ‘afternoon’ schools, but the feasibility of this will depend on how supply and demand works out over the pilot and beyond. If schools are able to be flexible on timing, this may make it easier to supply volunteers.

Where do the sessions take place?

The sessions always take place in school although the actual location will depend on the particular school.  This might be in the library, the dining room, or perhaps in a corridor area.

The volunteer fetches the child from the classroom at the start of each session and accompanies them back to the classroom afterwards.

Who provides the materials for the sessions?

We equip our in-school volunteers with a set of ‘props’ including dice, counters, cards, snakes and ladders, and various printed sheets with number lines and number squares, etc.

We ask that schools assist by lending our volunteers other available teaching materials such as ‘Cuisenaire Rods’ and ‘Numicon’.

How many Number Sense volunteers will there be at the school?

We aim to have at least two volunteers at each school, although they may not necessarily volunteer on the same days.  We will introduce the volunteers to each other so that they can share experiences and ideas and cooperate in their approach to the school.

How do our one-to-one sessions work?

Each session is usually 20-30 minutes although the school decides on the exact length.

The volunteer will tailor the sessions to help the child progress, but the sessions will be much more flexible than structured classroom lessons. Sessions typically involve discussions and mathematical games as well as more conventional ‘classroom’ exercises.

On the suggestion of the teacher, the in-school volunteer may also work through specific examples or activities.

What is a typical game?

The volunteer takes 18 playing cards made up of two suits of one to nine – and then places them face down.  The first player turns over a pair of cards.

The aim is to find pairs adding to ten. If a pair does add to ten, the player keeps the pair and has another go. If the pair does not add to ten, the player replaces the cards face down – and both players try to remember the cards. Then the second player has a go.  The winner is the player with the most pairs at the end.

The game gives the child the opportunity to reinforce ‘number bonds’ for ten, but equally importantly it gives a framework for talking through strategies for counting and adding and subtracting – and for having fun.

What is our relationship with the school?

We aim to establish good relationships in every school, at a personal level with teachers and staff and also through structured communication with the school management.

We ask that the school provides a single teaching contact, typically the Head of Maths or a member of the Senior Leadership Team.  This allows our volunteers to liaise about issues without having to interrupt classroom teachers.  We also request a single contact for administration.

Number Sense will also provide a single contact for administration and will assign one of our mentors to be available to our volunteers and to the school teaching contact.

Our standard agreement establishes legal terms in the areas of safeguarding, data protection, and insurance. It also includes two simple one-page forms designed to provide helpful communication between the school and Number Sense.

How do we know that our maths interventions succeed?

We have developed our intervention based on discussions with experienced teachers, incorporating ideas from existing literacy schemes which support children learning to read.  We have also built on feedback from our first group of volunteers.

At the end of our first year, in July 2019, we asked the class teacher of each child we worked with to evaluate the child’s progress over the year compared to the rest of the class. This used a five point scale from ‘very much better’ to ‘worse’. (It turned out that nobody was evaluated ‘worse’!) The teachers rated 60% of the children ‘very much better’ or ‘noticeably better’.

These results are very encouraging, albeit they are for a relatively small group of children. In the school year 2019-20 we will be asking the same question to class teachers on over 100 children, and in addition we have asked the schools to carry out a before-and-after ‘attitude test’ with each child. This will help us build stronger evidence on the impact of our intervention.

Thus we have an intervention which professionals predict will succeed and which is already showing positive impact. However, we want to continue to improve the quality of our intervention and to get external validation of our results.

We have made initial steps towards establishing a partnership with independent academics who can evaluate whether we achieve improved outcomes for the children we work with. A statistically meaningful analysis will require tracking hundreds of children. Our goal is to achieve this by 2024-25.

Why are we currently working only in North London?

An organisation with a strong physical presence requires people on the ground in each area where it operates.  This means not just in-school volunteers, but also people to recruit schools and manage the relationships, and people to recruit and to support volunteers.

We have therefore begun with a pilot scheme in North London. Our strategy is grow to a suitable scale within London, after which we can open up in new areas, building a local support structure in each.