Teaching for Mastery

What is it?

Mastering maths means pupils acquiring a deep, long-term, secure and adaptable understanding of the subject.

The phrase ‘teaching for mastery’ describes the elements of classroom practice and school organisation that combine to give pupils the best chances of mastering maths.

Achieving mastery means acquiring a solid enough understanding of the maths that’s been taught to enable pupils to move on to more advanced material.

Teaching for mastery in maths demonstrates a number of characteristics that underpin the approach. Some are listed below, and more can be found in the NCETM’s 2016 paper ‘The Essence of Maths Teaching for Mastery’.

  • It rejects the idea that a large proportion of people ‘just can’t do maths’.
  • All pupils are encouraged by the belief that by working hard at maths they can succeed.
  • Pupils are taught through whole-class interactive teaching, where the focus is on all working together on the same lesson content at the same time. This ensures that all can master concepts before moving to the next part of the curriculum sequence, allowing no pupil to be left behind.
  • Procedural fluency and conceptual understanding are developed in tandem because each supports the development of the other.

The Five Big Ideas underpin teaching for mastery in both primary and secondary schools.

How can schools get involved with teaching for mastery?

All of the 40 Maths Hubs across England offer professional development to help teachers develop a mastery approach in their own classroom, department and school. Any teacher or school wishing to take part in a Teaching for Mastery Work Group should get in touch with their local Maths Hub. The hub will then be able to give more details about which Work Group is most suitable for the school, and when recruitment for the next Work Group is open.  At Origin Maths Hub, we would love to hear from you, even if you’re unsure what your next step should be.

What else do I need to know about teaching for mastery?

If you are interested in the research behind teaching for mastery, there are a number of research papers available in the NCETM’s website page of Supporting Research, Evidence and Argument.

For secondary school maths teachers and leaders, a document of Themes and Key Principles from December 2017 outlines some of the characteristics of teaching for mastery at secondary. This flyer also addresses some of the myths surrounding mastery – and dispels them.

The NCETM provides a wide range of mastery resources including assessment materials, professional development materials, calculation guidance and marking guidance for both primary and secondary teachers.

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