A Mastery Approach

We have made quite dramatic changes to the way Maths is taught at Great Ellingham Primary School over the last three years. Our journey began after attending a Mastery conference. Head teachers shared their experiences of the ‘Mastery Approach’ to teaching Maths at Primary level and the enormous impact it had. We were particularly inspired by hearing Debbie Morgan and Ban Har Yeap speaking on the idea of all children being mathematicians with a solid conceptual understanding rather than children who learn mathematical procedures.

The idea that every child can be exposed to Maths appropriate to their age, regardless of ability, is one that many would argue is unrealistic. However, for years we have watched gaps develop in the achievement of the children in our classes as they move through the school. We will never close this gap if we never expose our children to Maths appropriate to their age and consistently set low expectations with our differentiation. With our Mastery approach, we have seen children with Special Educational Needs for Maths answer questions that, historically, they would never have been exposed to. We have removed the ceiling on their achievement and their confidence and self-esteem has grown as they move at the same pace as their classmates. This has had a huge impact on all of our staff members, who have made dramatic changes in terms of teaching and learning as a result. More importantly, we have seen a huge impact on our children in terms of their attitude towards Maths, their conceptual understanding and their willingness to explore and investigate. We believe every child has the right to feel this way about Maths.

Having two members of staff who were part of the Norfolk and Suffolk Maths Hub, we are in a great position to continue to spread and model the ideas and the strategies involved. We can make this dream of every child being a mathematician a reality.


What does Mastery look like at Great Ellingham Primary School?

We are using ‘Power Maths’ Singapore-style books to plan and teach our Maths lessons. The only way to achieve Mastery is to build upon a solid foundation of conceptual understanding and procedural fluency. To ensure a good level of understanding, it is necessary to move through the curriculum at a different pace to previous years. Children will spend much longer on certain areas to fully embed the concept before moving on, rather than how they were historically taught by spending approximately one to two weeks on each area, each term. We explicitly teach each topic once throughout the year but these areas of Maths are met continuously through our representations. Therefore, nothing is truly taught in isolation.


How is this different to what we did before?

  • Every lesson begins with a ‘Power Up’ and/or ‘Discover’ task. Children are given the opportunity to explore and investigate the problem with a friend and unpick what they need to find before developing a strategy for solving it.
  • Children are provided with resources such as Dienes, place value counters, Cuisenaire rods or even just strips of card to fold and manipulate. Children of all abilities will use resources, not as a calculation tool, but as a way to model their thinking and demonstrate understanding of a mathematical concept.
  • All children are capable of succeeding. In lessons, all children will have access to an age-related curriculum with differentiation being addressed through scaffolding and the level of depth at which tasks are pitched. All children are exposed to greater depth tasks and have the option to have a go if they feel ready. No greater depth task moves beyond the age-related objective for the lesson, it will simply explore the broader concept. These greater depth tasks are referred to as the ‘Dong Nao Jin’ within lessons.
  • Everyone moves through the curriculum at the same pace. Pupils who find specific concepts more difficult to grasp will be given extra support during interventions before, during and after lessons.
  • The lessons are split into a 30-minute main teaching session, followed by a 30-minute independent activity, during which identified children will gain intervention.
  • Aim 2 of the National Curriculum is for pupils to be able to reason mathematically. In order to develop this ability, children need to be able to talk about their mathematics. Children are encouraged every lesson to talk through their reasoning using mathematical vocabulary and with the support of Stem Sentences to help them to structure answers.
  • We cover less content in each lesson, but instead focus on a single concept to explore and understand in depth. Lessons now provide the small building blocks required to develop a genuine conceptual understanding.


Assessment and Feedback

The children are provided with feedback every single lesson, both verbally and written. Those children identified as needing further support will be given the opportunity to make good progress through extra intervention sessions and small group work.

Children complete review and revision sections in their Power Maths workbooks each time they reach the end of a topic. We carry out termly White Rose tests for each year group.


Great Ellingham and Rocklands Schools Federation