For students to achieve ‘mastery’ in maths means that they have a deep and rich understanding of concepts. For example, a student who has mastered multiplication of one digit numbers could easily recall what 7 x 8 is, and could explain to you how this links to repeated addition

Read on for 8 key points of maths mastery, and tips on what you can do to teach for mastery

1. Everyone can improve in maths.

Mastering maths aligns with Growth Mindset theory which advocates that all can make progress if they work hard

What can you do?

Sing this from the rooftops!

2. No child is left behind.

When teaching for mastery, all students work on the same topic together and the class does not move on until all have mastered basic concepts  

What can you do?

  • Group your students such that your more able students can help those who need more support

  • Assess and intervene early if a student is struggling (our 1-to-1 intervention programme comes in handy for this! Sign up for a free demo on our homepage)

3. Maths is taught to give a conceptual understanding, rather than technical

This means no ‘maths tricks’ (at least not until the student has grasped the content).

What can you do?

Avoid teaching maths ‘shortcuts’ such as ‘cancelling’ fractions to simplify

4. Teaching props are welcome!

Teaching for mastery typically involves introducing concepts in ‘concrete’, ‘pictorial’ and then ‘abstract’ form. Students are encouraged to play with physical things, then visualise with diagrams before finally moving to visualising the concept in writing or in their head.

What can you do?

Start off teaching a concept with blocks, counters or other concrete props. Encourage students to play around; physically building, connecting and moving objects

Experiment with teaching using bar model diagrams

5. Depth is more important than breadth

Students explore topics deeply before moving on to the next content in the curriculum sequence.

What can you do?

Try not to panic about covering all of the content. Take your time to support your students with the basics – once they have mastered these they will be better set to face more difficult challenges in maths later in their school life

6. Language is tailored to mastery

Students are encouraged to explain their answer in full sentences. For example, rather than giving a one-word answer of ‘90 degrees’ students would be encouraged to say ‘A right angle measures 90 degrees’. This is so that the student is reminded of the concept once more, the teacher is able to better assess understanding and the rest of the class can benefit from the answer given.

What can you do?

Ask for ‘full sentence answers’ from students

7. Emphasis is put on fluency of concepts

Students should master basic skills such as number bonds, multiplication tables and and inverse operations. Once a student can effortlessly recall basic number facts, they can better process tasks which require deeper thinking. 

What can you do?

Embed routine practice of key number facts until they have been mastered, perhaps by including a section in your starter questions

8. Students explore connections in maths

Maths is a beautiful, interconnected subject. With maths mastery, students are encouraged to actively make links between topics.

What can you do?

Intelligently plan your scheme of work and lessons to include cross topic links (e.g. when teaching measurement and scales, explore fractions and decimals conversions)

Encourage students to use numerical methods they have learnt when covering other topics (e.g. use of column multiplication when calculating area, rather than using a calculator) 

Ready to channel your inner ‘maths master guru’? There’s no time like the present! Let us know how you get on.