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Primary Maths Mastery Advice

Discussion in 'Mathematics' started by mrjoemaths, Dec 18, 2017.

  1. mrjoemaths

    mrjoemaths New commenter

    Hi everyone,

    Please be kind, I'm asking for some advice towards implementing a mastery approach in my school. I know I'm late to the party, but I only just joined this school and it is quite traditional in the approach to maths teaching and learning.

    I've read lots of the information on the NCETM website, as well as Nrich and been to some good training. I just want to lay out my vision for the bringing in a form of a mastery approach and get some feedback from people who have done some of this ideas, or have some great constructive criticism of what I'm thinking. I really don't want to have missed the point of mastery.

    Here is my intended approach (please note that the stretching of high attainers is a big worry for my school about the mastery approach).

    • Getting our MTP objectives for the wonderful White Rose schemes
    • Getting our lesson objectives from the Surrey Hub Lesson breakdown document
    • Shared starter revisiting number a bit each lesson
    • Shared introduction to the learning objective - with examples and some reasoning whole class discussions
    • Children attempt some questions aimed at assessing their fluency within the objective. This is then used for task selection.
    • All children working within the learning objective, but is differentiated by depth - support group consolidating the concepts which will enable them to become fluent. Next group will look at some reasoning questions and begin to apply their knowledge. The task selection fluid and both the child and the teacher have a say in which challenge level is chosen.
    • Bringing class together for mini plenaries to address misconceptions (likely ones can be found in the GLOW hub schemes of work)
    • For the plenary we all look in a bit more depth at a reasoning question and look into a bit more detail as a class
    • Low threshold, high ceiling problem solving tasks will be used within some lessons where a group can access with minimal teacher support, but sometimes as whole class lessons where a bit more introduction may be needed.
    • We have some great textbooks (Shanghai maths project, busy ants etc) which I'd like to not rely on, but staff are enjoying them at the moment. I'm planning on steering staff towards the ideas on the White Rose schemes, the GLOW scheme, Nrich curriculum mapping and TES of course!
    • In terms of assessment - this is largely being set up by deputy heads and is out of my control, so I'm not losing sleep over it.
    Yes - I realise the idea of differentiation by depth isn't really the 'mastery' way - but my school are not yet ready to make this jump (one step at a time!). What I'm asking is: can anyone see any holes in this idea, or have tried some and have some feedback to offer? Please do get in touch, it would be wonderful to get your opinions on this.

    Thank you very much in advance!
  2. Tandy

    Tandy New commenter

    You appear to be wishing to follow the Maths Hubs models, rather than a mastery approach, which is, of course, fine and you prerogative... but... if you are also interested in mastery, this visual summary might be useful.

    A couple of thoughts about the approach you are taking (again, your prerogative, but doesn't sound like mastery):

    • Why have a starter, main, plenary structure? What does this add?
    • Why let the child chose which level of challenge? How can a child know this? It's a pretty complex pedagogical decision for an expert teacher let alone a child.
    • The SMP books you reference are really very good - why not just follow them?
    • How can you hope to even get close to a mastery approach if you don't have control over assessment (the single most important ingredient)?
    • Finally, why is there concern at your school about stretching high ability kids? This is a core outcome of mastery and kids go well beyond the national curriculum. [Though, I guess if you are following the Hubs approach (not mastery), then I'd be worried about that issue too]

    If you are interested in moving towards a mastery approach, I'm happy to answer any questions about it that you may have.
    mrjoemaths likes this.
  3. mrjoemaths

    mrjoemaths New commenter

    Hi Tandy,

    Thanks for your reply - the visual is wonderful and really clear!
    I had a feeling that my suggestions weren't "Mastery" - the difficulty is with the school wanting to take small steps (understandably). I'm sure the aim is to move towards what you suggest, but just taking a step at a time.

    The starter, main plenary structure is mainly about not wanting to change too much too soon. I've trialled a few 'ping pong' style lessons and loved them, but as a school, this is quite a big shift away from what we currently do they don't want to dive in and change everything yet. Although not ideal, until we get time to introduce this properly, the 3 part lesson is at least what the norm is here, so should be easy to follow.

    I agree that letting children choose the level of challenge is not ideal. This is obviously in conjunction with the teacher suggestions and the idea of growth mindset, but again not ideal. I am against the idea of prescribing set work for set groups (I've read a bit of research about how this can be damaging to the confidence of young mathematicians) I was hoping that shared choice of challenge would at least take this away. It's not without it's critics, but we're not ready here for whole class teaching yet (the mastery approach) but at least this way we can shift the focus onto differentiation by depth rather than content.

    A good shout about the SMP books - I inherited these when I arrived (newly order, the staff haven't received any input in using them). I will look into SMP more and see what's there!

    I completely agree with your assessment question. This is, however out of my hands and I have to go with what the school want to do. I am hoping that they will be working with the subject leaders so we get some say in this.

    Lastly, with regard to your last point, we're a school that charge fees and our Secondary maths department want children to advance through the content quickly and get GCSEs sooner. At the moment there is pressure to make sure that our 'higher' learners are ready for this advancement. Obviously we need to do what is right for children in Primary, but there is a pressure that children come out of Year 6 knowing old level 6 material and algebra. Basically, although I know that the mastery approach will mean we end up with awesome mathematicians, I need to prove that they will also be making above average progress.

    Thanks for your reply, you have given me a lot to think about. Really appreciate the time taken to write a detailed response!
  4. Tandy

    Tandy New commenter

    You are absolutely right to move in small steps - trying to shift teachers' practice in one huge move is always less than satisfactory, so keeping some things the same is a good thing to do.

    It seems the key issue you will have is the lack of control over assessment practices - these are so crucial to mastery approaches that there can be no efficacy without it. Perhaps subject leaders and SMT need to have a serious discussion about this first before you go through the pain of shifting your model of teaching maths.

    Your secondary phase will find it perfectly possible to accelerate the high ability kids if that's what they want to do... having a secure understanding of the prerequisite maths (a key outcome of mastery) will allow for this.

    If you want to do some further reading over the Christmas breaks, I have written extensive blogs on mastery:


    Teaching for Mastery, Part 1

    Teaching for Mastery, Part 2

    If you do get the chance to read, I'd love to hear any thoughts / feedback.
    thara9643 likes this.
  5. mrjoemaths

    mrjoemaths New commenter

    Hi Tandy,

    Sorry for lack of reply (Christmas). I really appreciate your input. I'll try and read through those links before going back in January - at first glance they look great.

    Thanks again and Merry Christmas!

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