What is mastery in maths and why is it important?
Mastery maths teaching focuses on ensuring children develop deep, long-lasting retention and appreciation of mathematical concepts and procedures. It should mean that children are better able to recognise numbers and shapes and perform key operations, allowing them to become adept problem solvers too.
How we develop mastery at PGHS
Mastery teaching can be achieved by applying the NCETM’s ‘Five Big Ideas in Teaching for Mastery’:
- Coherence: This is where lessons are broken down into smaller, connected steps, helping pupils to access a concept initially then build upon their understanding. This enables them to then generalise the concept so that they can apply it to a range of different contexts.
- Representation and Structure: In Mastery teaching it’s important that we use representations (concrete or pictorial) to help explain and reinforce the concept being taught. This is with the aim of ultimately being able to remove the representations and for pupils still being able to do the maths in question.
- Mathematical Thinking: When pupils learn new ideas passively (i.e. when they’re not encouraged to think about and work with what they’re learning) it is less likely they will come to confidently understand them. For this reason, in mastery teaching we expect pupils to think about, apply, discuss and reason with the concepts that they’re learning.
- Fluency: Fluency is a core part of a mastery approach, to help pupils become confident, flexible and resilient problem solvers. We need to help them develop their ability to quickly and efficiently recall number facts and procedures so that they can move between different contexts.
- Variation: To develop a deep and holistic understanding of mathematical concepts, variation is key. This means both representing concepts in different ways when they’re being taught (such as switching between concrete and pictorial representations) and varying the type of questions you’re asking pupils to answer and explore (e.g. gradually adjusting the type of challenge in subtraction questions by looking at crossing different boundaries). In this way pupils have to pay attention to what is the same and what changes, helping to build up their understanding of the connections that can be made within and between mathematical concepts.