New UK research confirmed for the first time that children taught math using a Chinese-style method fare much better than their peers, backing a decision to use such techniques in British primary schools.
An independent study by Oxford University shows pupils taught in a version of Asian "mastery" methods do "significantly better".
The research looked specifically at the Inspire Maths program, widely used in Singapore, and in which Shanghai pupils have also been shown to excel. Interest was prompted by the success of Shanghai and Singapore in 2012 in international rankings that showed how 15-year-olds compared in math. Shanghai was tops, Singapore second and the UK ranked 26th.
"Overall, we found positive evidence that Inspire Maths benefited children's maths achievement and supported teachers' professional development," said James Hall, lead author of the Oxford study.
In the system, as children progress together, their confidence is built up using high-quality textbooks. The method introduces core concepts that are broken down into small steps, starting with the use of real-life objects and drawings to help them understand. This contrasts with the UK practices of more individual teaching, games and memorization.
But a recent trend has been to adopt Chinese teaching methods. In July, the UK government said it would spend 41 million pounds (.6 million) over four years to support 8,000 primary schools' use of "mastery" techniques.
Around 700 teachers will be trained to support schools using the method.
That same month, 140 primary teachers in England had already been trained by the National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics to help schools adopt the new approach.
Schools Minister Nick Gibb said an exchange program for teachers from China would continue for the following two years to strengthen math teaching in primary schools.
Scott Wellington, a teacher at Linden Primary School, said: "I was initially skeptical about a textbook scheme, but quickly I saw the conceptual understanding of the Singapore approach. Inspire Maths has really opened our eyes and as a result we are now creating very confident mathematicians."
Last year a BBC documentary followed five Chinese teachers at Bohunt School in Hampshire. Students using the Chinese method achieved marks about 10 percent higher than those taught in the English manner.