Teaching for Mastery

Jurassic Maths Hub Teaching for Mastery Statement

Principle: The intention of teaching for mastery is to give all pupils (including those with SEND) access to equitable classrooms; classrooms where pupils can all participate and be influential, and classrooms where pupils are encouraged and supported to develop a deep connected and sustained understanding of the mathematics being explored.

The following may indicate that a teacher is aiming to provide an environment and experiences in line with teaching for mastery:
            • All pupils working on the same focus with different support1 provided to enable all pupils to access the mathematics independently
            • Pupils behaving as mathematicians as part of a mathematics community, including:
            • Making decisions both independently and collaboratively2
            • Working flexibly to answer questions, reflecting on the efficiency and simplicity of their chosen methods
            • Making conjectures and generalisations and applying and testing these
            • Having a go, willing to share even when unsure and understanding that this is when learning is taking place
            • Being comfortable with not getting everything ‘right’, embracing purposeful struggle3
            • Talking mathematics4: (1) Articulating their thinking (2) Taking responsibility for asking questions of others to clarify understanding (3)                 Agreeing and disagreeing and justifying their thinking (4) Responding in full sentences with the intention that everyone understands                     them
            • Exploring the mathematics guided by the teacher
            • Working and learning collaboratively5
            • The use of subject-specific vocabulary by all adults and pupils in the school from EYFS onwards
            • The use of different, appropriate representations, by both adults and pupils, for making sense of the mathematics (exposing structure)                   and demonstrating understanding
            • The use of questioning to develop understanding
            • Books show pupils working on the same mathematics representing their thinking and understanding in different ways (including with                   diagrams, models, symbols and writing) rather than pupils working through many different examples. This may result in less in the                         books (especially for younger pupils and pupils with SEND) and no obvious differentiation by task.

The most effective way to find out what pupils understand about their mathematics will be to talk them. Pupils really understand a mathematical concept, idea or technique if they can:
           • Describe it in their own words;
           • Represent it in a variety of ways (e.g. using concrete materials, pictures and symbols)
           • Explain it to someone else;
           • Make up their own examples (and non-examples) of it;
           • See mathematical connections between it and other facts or ideas;
           • Recognise it in new situations and contexts;
           • Make use of it in various ways, including in new situations* *Adapted from NCETM adapted from John Holt ‘How Children Fail’ 1964.

1 Support might not necessarily involve a teaching assistant. Support should be appropriate to the needs of the pupil i.e. as specified on their EHCP or In-school Plan. It may include the use of a cycle of modelling, scaffolding, prompting, independent activity for any new learning/experience and/or pre-teaching to enable pupils to access the class learning.
2 For pupils with SEND, this may include choice-making, initially adult-led leading to making choices independently.
3 At a level in line with their needs, supported to do so by adults with whom they are working.
4 For pupils with SEND this may include appropriate modelling, scaffolding and pre-teaching.
5 For pupils with SEND, this may involve collaborating with an adult rather than another pupil.

To download a printable copy of this statement please click HERE


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


What is the Teaching for Mastery Programme?

The NCETM and Maths Hubs have been running the national Primary Teaching for Mastery Programme since 2015, and more recently secondary schools have also become involved with teaching for mastery.

This video explaining the programme was made in 2018, but all the principles still apply now.

In the first year, 136 schools from all over England each nominated a teacher to begin training as a Primary Mastery Specialist. The teachers were given a year’s intensive training in the principles of teaching for mastery, underpinned by its ‘Five Big Ideas’, and in professional development leadership. In the following year, they further developed teaching for mastery in their own schools. And they shared the approach with neighbouring schools by leading Teaching for Mastery Work Groups.

In each subsequent year, a new cohort of Primary Mastery Specialists has been trained, increasing the pool of specialists leading Work Groups of local schools. By summer 2019, more than 5,000 schools have participated in the Teaching for Mastery Programme. Hundreds of thousands of children are now benefitting from a changed experience of maths learning at school. The programme is open to all state-funded schools in England.

Secondary Mastery Specialists are now also being trained, and hundreds of secondary schools are starting to develop teaching for mastery approaches, especially at KS3.

More information about the Primary Teaching for Mastery Programme and its impact can be found in the NCETM’s Primary Teaching for Mastery progress report published in July 2019.


How can schools get involved with teaching for mastery?

All of the 37 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.


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.

The Jurassic Maths Hub have run various innovative work groups to support the teaching of mastery approach.  To find out more click HERE