Mastery in maths

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By Nicki Allman

Maths mastery has become a hot topic in many primary staffrooms. But what does the term ‘mastery’ actually mean? Find out more with this article and accompanying activities.

The 2014 curriculum is now being taught in schools across England and also in many international schools who have made the change towards maths mastery. But what does this actually mean for teachers?


On 12th July 2016, the Government released a statement about the use of mastery in Primary Maths. You can read the full statement here .

The key announcements are as follows:

  • 8000 Primary schools in England will receive £41 million over 4 years to support Maths mastery teaching.
  • Recent international tests have shown that in places using the mastery approach – Shanghai, Singapore and Hong Kong – the percentage of 15-year-olds who are ‘functionally innumerate’ is 10 percentage points lower than in England.
  • An initial 700 teachers are to be trained to support schools in Maths mastery, with funding also available for textbooks.
  • So far 140 teachers from Primary schools in England have been trained by the National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics (NCETM) to help schools adopt mastery.
  • The expansion will be led by Maths hubs – 35 school-led centres of excellence in Maths teaching.
  • The Government has also announced the launch of a tender for a National Maths Education Centre.
  • Professor Sir Adrian Smith is to publish a review by the end of 2016, investigating the viability of compulsory Maths study for all pupils up to the age of 18.
Number sequences
A mastery approach follows the main aims as stated in the 2014 National Curriculum meaning that there has been a change in expectations for each year group.
  • The majority of pupils will move through the programmes of study at broadly the same pace.
  • Decisions about when to progress should be based on the security of a pupil’s understanding and readiness to progress to the next stage.
  • Pupils who grasp concepts rapidly should be challenged through being offered rich and sophisticated problems before any acceleration through new content.
  • Those who are not sufficiently fluent with earlier material should consolidate their understanding through additional practice, before moving on.
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  1. millystan
    on 27 July 2016

    Mastery in mathematics

    Very interesting article reflecting what we are currently doing in my school. The linked activity ideas are great but it would have been useful to have some simpler ideas too. It is a very exciting time in the teaching of mathematics. This will be a great reference to use when explaining mastery to parents.

    5out of 5