Teaching for Mastery

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Child using calculatorChildren’s chances of success are maximised if they develop deep and lasting understanding of mathematical procedures and concepts. Mastering maths means pupils aquiring 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

teaching for mastery

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

Implementing teaching for mastery requires a whole-school approach. It’s not just about what happens in lessons. Schools that have been most successful in introducing teaching for mastery have people in leadership positions putting time, energy and resources into supporting the approach.

For more detail on teaching for mastery, including case studies, lesson videos and professional development materials, see the NCETM mastery pages.

Listen here to Jenny Laurie, Deputy Head at The St Marylebone CE School talk about What mastery has done for our School.

Jenny Laurie

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