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Firm Foundations for All

We have been funded by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation to carry out development work on parental engagement in maths and the firm foundations of early number understanding for adults. This has allowed us to take the first steps in these two very important areas.

Poor numeracy is the hidden problem that blights the UK economy and ruins individuals’ chances in life

Sir Michael Rake, Chairman, BT

Aims of the project

  • To provide support to UK adults with the lowest numeracy skills
  • To trial resources and approaches that develop ‘number sense’ in adults with very poor numeracy
  • To provide adults with the lowest numeracy skills with a pathway into further numeracy development, either through the Challenge Online or other learning routes
  • To tackle negative attitudes and improve confidence – anyone can learn the maths needed for everyday life, whatever their starting point.

Firm Foundations for All overview


The research phase of the Firm Foundations for All project concluded in April 2014. We have produced:

  • Recommendations for trialling with adults the use of concrete learning resources that have proved successful in developing number sense in children but that are not yet widely used in the adult learning field
  • Firm Foundations teaching materials – an extensive teaching guide for use alongside concrete resources. This includes background, resource familiarisation information and activity suggestions for physical equipment with a focus on number and numerical operations. The teaching materials have been mapped against the Adult Core Curriculum and the Functional Skills Curriculum at Entry levels 1 and 2, with progression statements to Entry 3 included.

Read the final Firm Foundations for All outcome report


The pilot currently runs in four settings – Brighton Friends’ Centre, Prince’s Trust Hackney and Prince’s Trust Kennington, Leeds City College, and HMP Everthorpe. In each place, tutors are trialling the use of resources such as Numicon, Cuisenaire and Base 10 with adults of varying ages and with skills ranging from pre-entry to Entry 3.

Taking part in this pilot has helped to reinforce the importance of getting my learners to grasp the concept of number. It’s been great trying out the resources (Numicon, Cuisenaire etc.) with adults and getting positive feedback. There is a real lack of concrete apparatus aimed at adults and I think these resources and suggested activities will be really helpful.

William O’Connor, Pilot Partner, literacy and numeracy tutor, London.

When I can’t visualise it (maths) I feel like I’m hitting a brick wall. With Numicon I’ve found learning maths more relaxing and my head doesn’t ache afterwards. I feel more confident.

Adult maths learner and Firm Foundations for All pilot participant.

Get in touch

Do you have experience in these areas? Want to get involved or tell us your story?