Foundational Mathematics Education in Developing Countries

Department For International Development

October 15
15:59 2019


There is concern that children in developing countries are not learning sufficient mathematics skills. Focus on enrolment and literacy may have led to neglect of mathematics learning and less is known about the status in this area. According to a UNESCO study in 2014 fewer than 50 per cent of grade 6 students have achieved a minimum level in mathematics in three quarters of eastern and southern African countries (UNESCO, 2014). In the remaining quarter of countries, between 56 and 62 per cent of students had learned basic mathematics skills. To obtain information on mathematics progress this report extracts data from the World Bank database.

Section 2 describes the different data scales and section 3 reports results. Section 4 includes some case studies from further research into different countries. The following sections 5 to 9 discuss findings on teacher capacity, barriers, curricula, and technology. Section 10 outlines recommendations and research gaps.

K4D helpdesk reports provide summaries of current research, evidence and lessons learned. This report was commissioned by the UK Department for International Development.


Bolton, L. (2019). Foundational mathematics education in developing countries. K4D Helpdesk Report 657. Brighton, UK: Institute of Development Studies.

Foundational Mathematics Education in Developing Countries

Published 9 September 2019