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’.
The Five Big Ideas underpin teaching for mastery in both primary and secondary schools.
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. 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 2020, more than 8,000 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. 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.