• Research

    B&A offers a wide range of research support in the field of mathematics education. From impact assessments, to researching programme implementation fidelity and assessing learner performance, B&A provides tailor-made research solutions to clients.

    Please mail info@Brombacher.co.za for further information.

    Some of the recent research activities that we have been involved in are described below.

  • Research activities

    Ongoing assessment of programme impact using digitised mathematics assessments with Grade 1 to Grade 4 students.


    Grade 3, 6 and 9 formative assessment programme.


    The National Numeracy Programme (NNP) is a Government of Malawi programme, led by the Ministry of Education and funded by UK aid from the UK government. Mott Macdonald/Cambridge Education has been appointed to manage the programme. The NNP aims to improve learning outcomes in mathematics by strengthening foundational skills in mathematics and was rolled out during 2021-2023.

    The programme is a response to a scoping study led by Aarnout Brombacher in 2018. The scoping study found that the Malawian mathematics environment is characterised by limited and limiting expectations of learners and that the focus of teaching is on form (rote procedures and knowing) over substance (knowing with understanding, application and reasoning). The full scoping study can be downloaded here: Scoping Study

    Against the background of the findings of the scoping study, the focus of the NNP is on developing a vision for what it means to teach and learn mathematics in Malawi and to develop teaching and learning materials as well as a teacher training programme. The materials and training approach were piloted in 200 schools during the 2022 school year and were then refined based on the learnings from the pilot activity before the programme was scaled to all 5 700 primary schools in Malawi.

    Aarnout Brombacher was the Technical Principal of the NNP and was responsible for leading the visioning, materials development and teacher training programme development as well as overseeing the pilot and scale-up activities.

    The materials development activity began with a visioning activity in February 2022. A team of fifty teachers and teacher training college lecturers, selected by the Malawi Ministry of Education (MoE), as well as representatives from various ministry departments participated. The purpose of the envisioning workshop was to develop a common understanding of what it means to do, and be successful in mathematics. The outcome was a consensus that for children to be successful in mathematics, they need to know with understanding, be able to apply what they know in unfamiliar situations and explain and justify what they are doing (reasoning).

    After the visioning activity the team of writers, with technical assistance provided by Brombacher and Associates (B&A), set about revising the mathematics curriculum for lower primary (Standards 1-4). Next the team set about developing learner materials aligned with the vision and curriculum already developed. A total of seven monthly, week-long writing workshops took place between March of 2021 and April 2022. The workshops began with the writing team developing a common understanding of the importance, role and approach to teaching for each of the core elements of the curriculum. This understanding was informed by a review of the literature on how children learn each topic and the implications that this has for teaching. The outcome of the writing activity is a workbook series for Standards 1 to 4 that assumes that each child has their own workbook for each term of the school year and that they work through the workbooks at a rate of one page per school day. In addition to the learner workbooks, a Teacher Guide and teacher training videos were also developed.

    Starting in September 2021, all the teachers and learners in the 24 primary schools represented by the writers on the writing team pre-piloted (trialed) the materials for the third term of the 2021 school year. Valuable lessons were learnt about the implementation of the teaching and learning materials as well as the approach to the training of teachers. These lessons were incorporated in the materials and the training approach before the start of teacher training for the pilot phase conducted during the 2022 school year.

    Following on the development, pre-piloting and revision of the materials, the writing team joined the team of Master Trainers and Trainers responsible for training teachers from the 200 schools participating in the 2022 school year pilot activity. Teacher training was conducted through a three-layer cascade model. Aarnout and the B&A team trained the Master Trainers. The Master Trainers with support from the B&A team, in turn, trained Trainers who were responsible for training the teachers from the pilot schools distributed across 19 zones nationally.

    Aarnout’s leadership and passion for the improvement of learning opportunities and outcomes at classroom level, as well as the engagement and commitment of the writing team and teaching community are paving the way for materials, and teaching and learning approaches that promote a culture of mathematics that focuses on developing mathematics knowledge with understanding that can be applied in unfamiliar situations with reasoning.

    RTI INTERNATIONAL (2010-2018):

    RTI (Research Triangle Institute) International is a US based organisation involved in research and intervention. Since 2010, Aarnout Brombacher has consulted to RTI on a range of projects. As a consultant to RTI Aarnout has been involved in Early Grade Reading Assessments (EGRAs) in several countries, including Tanzania, Ghana, Iraq and Jordan; and has led the development and application of Early Grade Math Assessments (EGMAs) in more than eight countries. In many of these studies, he has also contributed to the policy dialogue and benchmark discussions with the ministries of education—in particular in Tanzania, Ghana, Jordan, and Iraq.

    As a Senior Research Analyst with RTI International from 2012 till 2018 Aarnout has led much of RTI’s mathematics-focused assessment and intervention work. This involves interacting with the various role players, including ministries of education, USAID, UKAID, Global Affairs Canada, other donors, subcontractors, and consultants. He has also done much to improve the efficiency with which some of the technical aspects of projects are executed, in particular using appropriate technologies.

    In addition to Jordan, Aarnout’s relevant in-country mathematics experience includes Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Ghana, Egypt, Iraq, Malawi, Nigeria, the Philippines and South Africa.

    Between 2012 and 2014 Aarnout (working for RTI International) led a pilot early grade reading and mathematics intervention study in Jordan. Working closely with the USAID and the Jordanian Ministry of Education, Aarnout led the team that designed and oversaw the development of Ministry-created supplementary materials tailored specifically to address the gaps identified in the National Early Grade Survey conducted in 2012.

    Aarnout and his team were also responsible for training and supervising the trainers responsible for teacher training on this project, including innovations involving mobile phone technology to monitor implementation progress. The results of the pilot intervention study show that the percentage of children reading with comprehension in the treatment school increased from 14 to 24 percent and the percentage of non/beginning readers decreased from 25 to 19 percent after only one year of the intervention.

    In mathematics, the number of children achieving more than 80 percent on both of the two conceptual Early Grade Mathematics Assessment (EGMA) tasks (addition and subtraction L2 and missing number) increased from 13 to 27 percent. Following on from the intervention study, Aarnout has also led the research team in developing a remedial reading and mathematics programme for Grades 1 to 3.

    The programme used two stages of diagnostic assessments to determine students’ developmental state and then provided support materials to assist teachers address gaps identified by the diagnostic tools. The results of this pilot research demonstrated significant impact on the performance of participating students.

    Between January 2015 and October 2018 Aarnout (working for RTI International) has been the Senior Reading and Mathematics Specialist on the USAID & UKAID/Jordan Reading and Mathematics Project (RAMP) a five year ($55mil) project designed to take the activities of the intervention study (described in the previous paragraph) to scale in Jordan.

    In 2017 Aarnout led the midline study (involving EGRA, EGMA and a range of Snapshot of School Management Effectiveness [SSME]) instruments for the RAMP Initiative. The study demonstrated a statistically significant impact of the RAMP project on both reading and mathematics performance among Grade 2 and Grade 3 students in the Kingdom.

    JICA (2010):

    JICA (Japanese International Cooperation Agency) for the Mpumalanga Department of Education. Pre (March) and post (October) intervention impact study conducted in 2010. The research involved:

    • 12 000 children per study;
    • Test design and development;
    • Fieldworker training;
    • Data capture;
    • Analysis; and
    • Report writing and presentation.


    • Impact assessment of continuous assessment training – 2003.
    • Impact assessment on the effectiveness of the WCED developed OBE DVD Series – 2005.
    • Grade 8 Baseline Diagnostic Mathematics Assessments (paper-based and digital).