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Maths at Birchen Coppice


The Mastery Approach to Mathematics


Excellent mathematics skills are essential in our world. UK schools are being outperformed by countries like Singapore, China and Finland. The Asian countries use a Mastery Approach to mathematics. We are now attempting to use a similar approach to ensure our children ‘catch up’ and don’t fall behind further. We are attempting to ‘close the gap’ in their learning so that all children achieve and are successful in mathematics.


At Birchen Coppice Primary Academy, the Teaching for Mastery Approach is beginning to be rolled out. We are taking this approach as we need to close the gap that many of our pupils have. As teachers we need to ensure that our pupils have a deep understanding of the basic concepts within mathematics- this will enable pupils to achieve confidence and competency in mathematics.

In order to achieve this, we must ensure that we have a curriculum that is fully inclusive all of children which:

  • Develops children’s fluency, reasoning and problem-solving skills
  • Develops children’s understanding of conceptual and procedural knowledge
  • Ensure that pupils can communicate their understanding to peers
  • Give pupils opportunities to apply their mathematics to different contexts and make links between learning.
  • Ensures that differentiation is clear through scaffolding and questioning to support and challenge learning of concepts.

In accordance with the National Curriculum (2014), we aim to provide children with a deeper knowledge and understanding of mathematical procedures and concepts. There will be a phased roll out of the Mastery Approach, which will begin with key year groups, and we will support these teachers to plan effectively to ensure our pupils reach the expected standard. Learning sequences are developmental and a good proportion of time will be spent securing the key concepts. Teachers will use their own judgement about when to move on from learning and when to revisit concepts of learning through interleaving. As we secure this approach, we hope that a large majority of our pupils will progress through the curriculum at a similar pace. This will be closely monitored to identify any issues.


  • Maths overview will outline the areas of mathematics that will be taught during that term to ensure coverage is in line with the National Curriculum.
  • Weekly plans will show the sequence of learning along with clear learning objectives (WALTs) and success criteria for all children.
  • Teachers will use small steps planning and Power Maths to ensure that concepts are taught for all to achieve. They will have high expectations that everyone can achieve in mathematics. Teachers should plan a variation of questions within fluency which builds understanding of underlying mathematical concepts.
  • A large majority of pupils progress through the curriculum content at the same pace. Differentiation is achieved by emphasising deep knowledge and through individual support and intervention, not in content. Teachers will carefully scaffold and question learnings to challenge children at their level. This means more demanding questions for higher attainers (rapid graspers).
  • If some individual children are working significantly below the majority of the class, and the WALT seems inappropriate, then objectives from a lower age-group will be planned and taught.
  • Teachers will ensure that they are using formative assessment throughout their teaching to identify difficulties and misconceptions so that children are able to have the support and intervention they need on the same day.
  • Teachers need to use precise questioning in class to test conceptual and procedural knowledge, which means continually assessing pupils to identify those requiring interventions so that all pupils keep up.
  • Where possible real-life contexts should be used to immerse pupils into the learning, this maybe in the form of problem solving and reasoning with a real purpose.
  • Teachers must ensure the use of concrete and pictorial representations are chosen carefully to help develop procedural and conceptual knowledge alongside fluency.
  • Concepts are often explored together (as a whole class) to make mathematical relationships explicit and strengthen mathematical understanding.
  • Pupils will be sat in mixed ability pairs. Pupils are encouraged to communicate their understanding of maths so that it clarifies their thinking at every opportunity.
  • Pupils difficulties and misconceptions are identified immediately through formative assessment- this can be done in the lesson or later the same day. Meaning that there are very few ‘closing the gap’ strategies because there are very few gaps to close.
  • All adults within the classroom will be responsible for live marking of pupils work to address misconceptions and move learning on promptly. This will also ensure that pupils receive the right interventions on the same day.
  • In EYFS, a termly overview sets out which numbers are explicitly taught when. This will then be put into a daily grid to inform next steps in planning and teaching to ‘close the gap’. It is vital that these basic concepts are taught and understand at an early stage.

These approaches are to provide children with full access to the curriculum and enable them to achieve confidence and competency in mathematics. Teachers are clear that their role is to teach in a precise way which makes it possible for all pupils to engage successfully with tasks at the expected level of challenge. Pupils will work on the same tasks and engage in paired discussions to communicate their thinking of a concept. Teachers will select tasks carefully to consider the variation of approaches which enable all pupils to achieve and help strengthen mathematical understanding.

What a visitor might typically see in a Mastery maths lesson in our school:

  • Pupils will be sat in mixed ability pairs unless they are working significantly below
  • Whole class direct teaching with clear and progressive modelling of concepts and procedures with variation in examples
  • Use of concrete and pictorial representations to support understanding
  • Rehearsal of core facts and strategies through revisiting
  • Real life contexts to support key concepts
  • Emphasis on learning through reasoning/problem-solving
  • Use of questioning to check pupils understanding of key concepts
  • The majority of the class will be working on the same task. We want to expose all learners to good mathematics rather than just ‘more- able’
  • Higher attainers (rapid graspers) will be given challenges to further develop their thinking of concepts.
  • Live marking being used for immediate impact to ensure that learning is moved on quickly and that misconceptions are addressed.
  • Clear learning objectives (WALT) that run in a progressive sequence supported by explicit success criteria that promotes independent learning
  • Teaching assistant will be supporting small groups of pupils who need scaffolding/concrete resources to help.
  • Adults will share any misconceptions so that they can be addressed
  • Adults will be constantly referring back to the learning objective (WALT) and the success criteria

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