Mastery Overview

Why Teach using a Mastery Approach in Mathematics?

Teaching for mastery is a Department of Education initiative which started in 2016.  The purpose of the initiative is to develop Mathematics teaching and learning in England.  The aim is that all schools in England will eventually be teaching using this methodology.

Teachers who are already teaching using this approach have found that students have :

  • Improved confidence in Mathematics
  • Willingness to try any task and persevere
  • Improved ability to explain their reasoning and argue their view point using mathematical terminology
  • Improved problem solving skills
  • Students are much more engaged in the learning process and the lesson in general
  • Test and exam results show that the tail is much closer to the rest of the cohort and the cohort in general is getting higher results than in previous years
  • Most able are learning why maths works and how to explain mathematically

At a Primary level that schools who are teaching for mastery have had improved SATSs results compared to those who are not and in Secondary schools we are seeing results which indicate that our slower learners are keeping up with the middle of the cohort more and the whole cohort is achieving higher results.

The Five Big Ideas of Mastery

  • Coherence

Learning is broken down into small learning aims steps. Explicitly connecting new ideas to concepts that have already been understood.  Very carefully planning the order of learning to facilitate this.

Link to primary example – Primary Coherence Example Subtraction

Link to secondary example – Secondary Coherence Example Subtracting Negative Numbers

  • Mathematical Thinking

Students work on ideas to develop deep understanding rather than passively receiving them.  Students should be able to reason and discuss.  This includes using mathematical terminology and notation as soon as it is relevant.

Link to primary example – Primary Mathematical Thinking Example Subtraction

Link to secondary example – Secondary Mathematical Reasoning Example Interior Angles of Polygons

  • Fluency

Quick and efficient recall of facts and the ability to use them in different contexts in Mathematics.

Link to primary example – Primary Fluency Example Multiplication

Link to secondary example – Secondary Fluency Example Addition and Subtraction of Fractions

  • Variation

Varying the way a concept is presented to a student and varying practise questions so that mechanical repetition is avoided.  Include the use of different methods and misconceptions.  

Link to primary example – Primary Variation Example Subtraction and Triangles

Link to secondary example – Secondary Variation Example Indices Rules

  • Representation & Structure

Concrete, Pictorial and Abstract.  Representations expose students to the mathematical structure so they truly understand why mathematical algorithms work and can therefore adapt to different scenarios.

Link to primary example – Primary Representation and Structure Example Number Bonds to Ten

Link to secondary example – Secondary Representation and Structure Example Simultaneous Equations

Useful Resources:

Useful Links:

Reading List:  – Note that this is in the order of importance

  1. Five Myths of Mastery – nama_5_five_mastery_myths-2
  2. Secondary Mastery from NCETM magazine :
  3. Maths Hubs Bespoke Magazine Link

BBO Maths hub