Teaching maths for mastery
Since mastery is what we want pupils to acquire (or go on acquiring), rather than teachers to demonstrate, we use the phrase ‘teaching for mastery’ to describe the range of elements of classroom practice and school organisation that combine to give pupils the best chances of mastering mathematics.
Mastering maths means acquiring a deep, long-term, secure and adaptable understanding of the subject. At any one point in a pupil’s journey through school, achieving mastery is taken to mean acquiring a solid enough understanding of the maths that’s been taught to enable him/her to move on to more advanced material.
Our approach is based on key principles:
Mathematical problem-solving is at the heart of our approach. Pupils are encouraged to identify, understand and apply relevant mathematical principles and make connections between different ideas. This builds the skills needed to tackle new problems, rather than simply repeating routines without grasping the principles.
We believe no child should be left behind. We focus on pupils ‘keeping up over catching up’. By making high expectations clear – and emphasising the high value of mathematics education – learners are encouraged to build confidence and resilience.
Concrete, pictorial, abstract (CPA)
Objects, pictures, words, numbers and symbols are everywhere. Our approach incorporates all of these to help pupils explore and demonstrate mathematical ideas, enrich their learning experience and deepen understanding. Together, these elements help cement knowledge so pupils truly understand what they’ve learnt.
Depth before breadth
All learners benefit from deepening their conceptual understanding of mathematics, regardless of whether they've previously struggled or excelled. We believe pupils must be given time to fully understand, explore and apply ideas - rather than accelerate through new topics. This approach enables learners to truly grasp a concept, and the challenge comes from investigating it in new, alternative and more complex ways.
We believe our ‘abilities’ are neither fixed nor innate, but can be developed through practice, support, dedication and hard work. ‘Natural talent’ is just a starting point and does not determine who has more or less potential to achieve. This belief encourages a love of learning and resilience that enables everyone to achieve.
The way pupils speak and write about mathematics transforms their learning. We use a carefully sequenced, structured approach to introduce and reinforce mathematical vocabulary. We always ask pupils to explain the mathematics in full sentences (not just what the answer is, but how they know it’s the right answer). This is key to building mathematical language and reasoning skills.