Mastery in Mathematics – Calculation

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By Nicki Allman

Mastery in mathematics teaches that it is important to build on a learnt skill before moving onto the next concept or content in the curriculum. It is key to build in small sequential steps to aid the development of understanding. Building a secure knowledge is crucial to enable children to ‘master’ different concepts and it is this which produces the foundations for future progress.


The National Curriculum’s (2014) main aim is for all children ‘to become fluent in the fundamentals of mathematics, including through varied and frequent practice with increasingly complex problems over time, so that pupils develop conceptual understanding and the ability to recall and apply knowledge rapidly and accurately.’

Children can often find calculation difficult and moving too quickly through mathematical concepts can cause them to have gaps in their knowledge. Calculation is an important aspect of the mathematical curriculum and underpins much within it, but it comes from a strong foundation of understanding in number and place value. Children must understand and have a secure knowledge in number work. Without this, they will often ‘learn’ procedures but will not have the conceptual understanding that precedes calculation. The following bullet-pointed steps can be used to check that children are secure their procedural fluency and understand the mathematical concept behind the procedure, enabling them to ‘master’ calculation.

  • Are children secure in their knowledge of number and number facts, as well as developing a good grasp of their times tables and number bonds?
  • Do the children know how to partition and compose numbers and use knowledge of place value using different equipment?
  • Is the method they are using for a given calculation the most efficient way?
  • Can the children represent their working/solutions using a variety of visuals such as:
    • number lines
    • strategies such as partitioning in hundreds, tens and ones
    • grid methods
    • columnar strategies
  • Can children manipulate numbers in different ways?
  • Are children able to reason mathematically?
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