Mastery approaches in maths adds up

Mastery approaches in maths adds up  name

More than 150 maths teachers and head teachers from schools across Lancashire, Cumbria and beyond attended an event (Mon 20 March) which aims to develop the way the subject is taught in primary schools.

The North North West Maths Hub is one of a network of 35 which aims to bring together maths education professionals to spread best practice for students and pupils.

“We were absolutely delighted with the turn out at what is a really critical time for maths education in England,” Kathryn Fox, head of school partnership and external engagement at the Institute of Education, University of Cumbria said. “There is a real opportunity for teachers to work together to adopt mastery approaches by understanding the principles behind it.”

Mastery – defined by the National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics as an approach to ‘provide all children with full access to the curriculum, enabling them to achieve confidence and competence’ is also the subject of research carried out by the university.


Over 90 schools are involved in a mastery approach to maths curriculum project with seven teacher researchers taking part in a two-year project working run by Professor Pete Boyd from the University of Cumbria and Andy Ash, a leader in education and specialist in mastery approaches to teaching maths.

 “Teachers have the knowledge that we need and by working with them we can understand how a project like mastery maths unfolds in the classroom,” Professor Boyd said. “It’ll mean teachers can work in a research-informed way that may really change beliefs in what they’re doing. What we’re trying to do is understand classroom practice and see how we can develop it.”

The research shows how mastery approaches to maths involve challenging widely held teacher beliefs. These include expectations of what children can achieve, about grouping children by ‘ability’,  giving children different tasks and what is really required to become a confident mathematician. The university is keen to support teachers on developing mastery in maths approaches and to support head teachers in their leadership of the curriculum and cultural changes involved.

“It gives very a clear, concise way to teach maths,” Kelly Porter of St Joseph’s Withnell Primary said. "I like the idea of giving the children a task to grapple with first before you do your input in the lesson. It takes away the pressure on the teacher of having to stand there for twenty or thirty minutes actually teaching whereas if you go round and see the misconceptions the children are having you can teach to alleviate those misconceptions.”

Research on maths mastery is expected to be published later in the year and colleagues at the University of Cumbria will continue to be involved in the debates.

“Today was an opportunity to come together and hear about the work of the North North West Maths,” Kathryn Fox, head of school partnership and external engagement at the University of Cumbria said. ”It was excellent to provide the venue and be at the heart of the debate about principles of excellent mathematics.”