Nuffield Mathematics 5-11

Director: Eric Albany

The 1960s Nuffield Primary Mathematics programme was a huge success. The Nuffield Maths 5/11 revision aimed to give more practical, down-to-earth guidance to help teachers apply the ideals and principles of the first version. Pupil material was developed too.

Nuffield Mathematics 5/11

Learning through practical work

Nuffield primary maths remained committed to the notion that children learn through practical work, for which printed resources are no substitute. Teaching starting with activity and experimentation, leading to thinking and communication, and ending up with the acquisition of skills and reinforcement. As well as finding out and discovering things about mathematics, children needed to be told about mathematics too – particularly when new vocabulary is involved.


The published resources provided teacher guidance and pupil material for ages 5-7, and 7-11. There were worksheets to give practice and build confidence.

The colourful Bronto books linked the extension of mathematics vocabulary with language development for 4-6 year olds.

The first edition was published in 1979, with a National Curriculum edition in 1990.


The publications sold extremely well over a long period. The first National Curriculum featured many of the mathematical ideas explored and tested by Nuffield Maths 5/11. However high-stakes testing and later the national numeracy strategy brought about a marked change in classroom priorities and practice. The Nuffield slogan: ‘I do – and I understand’ faded into history.

Meanwhile the approach was taken up in New Zealand and an edition of the books was published there.

Large-scale training and support

The Nuffield Maths 5-11 project ran training events for teachers starting in the mid-1970s. There were about ten regional organisations covering England and Wales. Work was co-ordinated by a National Committee supported by a small annual grant from Nuffield, and organised through LEA advisers and their networks.

This cooperative approach to supporting teachers lasted long beyond the life of the project and local maths centres. The Nuffield Mathematics National Committee was finally wound up at the end of 2004 as a generation of enthusiasts finally retired, and the LEA advisers were replaced by National Strategy consultants.