Teaching for Mastery

We currently have four work groups focussing on Teaching for Mastery, coordinated by our Teaching for Mastery Lead (TfML), Clare Christie. 

Teaching for Mastery Cohorts 1 & 2 (NCP)

Primary Mastery TRG supplementary group

Secondary Mathematics Teaching for Mastery (NCP)

The essential idea behind mastery is that all children need a deep understanding of the mathematics they are learning so that:

• future mathematical learning is built on solid foundations which do not need to be re-taught;
• there is no need for separate catch-up programmes due to some children falling behind;
• children who, under other teaching approaches, can often fall a long way behind, are better able to keep up with their peers, so that gaps in attainment are narrowed whilst the attainment of all is raised.


There are generally four ways in which the term mastery is being used in the current debate about raising standards in mathematics:

1. A mastery approach: a set of principles and beliefs. This includes a belief that all pupils are capable of understanding and doing mathematics, given sufficient time. Pupils are neither ‘born with the maths gene’ nor ‘just no good at maths’. With good teaching, appropriate resources, effort and a ‘can do’ attitude all children can achieve in and enjoy mathematics.


2. A mastery curriculum: one set of mathematical concepts and big ideas for all. All pupils need access to these concepts and ideas and to the rich connections between them. There is no such thing as ‘special needs mathematics’ or ‘gifted and talented mathematics’. Mathematics is mathematics and the key ideas and building blocks are important for everyone. 

3. Teaching for mastery: a set of pedagogic practices that keep the class working together on the same topic, whilst at the same time addressing the need for all pupils to master the curriculum and for some to gain greater depth of proficiency and understanding. Challenge is provided by going deeper rather than accelerating into new mathematical content. Teaching is focused, rigorous and thorough, to ensure that learning is sufficiently embedded and sustainable over time. Long term gaps in learning are prevented through speedy teacher intervention. More time is spent on teaching topics to allow for the development of depth and sufficient practice to embed learning. Carefully crafted lesson design provides a scaffolded, conceptual journey through the mathematics, engaging pupils in reasoning and the development of mathematical thinking.

4. Achieving mastery of particular topics and areas of mathematics. Mastery is not just being able to memorise key facts and procedures and answer test questions accurately and quickly. It involves knowing ‘why’ as well as knowing
‘that’ and knowing ‘how’. It means being able to use one’s knowledge appropriately, flexibly and creatively and to apply it in new and unfamiliar situations.