Mathematics at Two Mile Ash School
At Two Mile Ash School, we are proud to be one of the early adopters of the Teaching for Mastery approach, an interactive and engaging approach to maths that focusses on the children developing a deep understanding of mathematical concepts, inspired by approaches in Singapore and Shanghai.
Our aim is for all children to enjoy and excel in maths and we hope to achieve this by adopting a practical approach, focussed on real life contexts and problems, where physical and pictorial representations support children in uncovering the structure of the mathematical concepts; deepening their understanding; connecting ideas and enhancing their mathematical understanding, enjoyment and achievement, for every child.
What is Teaching for Mastery?
Since mastery is what we want pupils to acquire (or go on acquiring), rather than teachers to demonstrate, we use the phrase ‘teaching for mastery’ to describe the range of elements of classroom practice and school organisation that combine to give pupils the best chances of mastering mathematics.
And mastering maths means acquiring a deep, long-term, secure and adaptable understanding of the subject. At any one point in a pupil’s journey through school, achieving mastery is taken to mean acquiring a solid enough understanding of the maths that’s been taught to enable him/her move on to more advanced material.
This paper, published by the NCETM contains the Essence of the Teaching for Mastery Approach
The key principles of our approach:
A growth mindset and high expectations – We reject the idea that you are born with a maths gene or are a born mathematician. Instead we encourage a growth mindset in which we believe that all children are capable of achieving in maths with determination, hard work and resilience. We believe that all children should achieve together by ‘keeping up, not catching up’ we teach the children the value of making mistakes in maths and foster the ‘Everyone Can’ approach.
Problem-solving and uncovering the structure of the maths
Problem solving is at the heart of our approach and every maths concept is introduced through a real life contextualised problem. This enables the children to draw on real life experiences, make connections between different ideas and apply mathematical principles. We support the children by adopting a ‘Concrete, Pictorial, Abstract’ approach where time is spent using mathematical resources and manipulatives in lessons uncovering the structure of the maths which, when acquired, can then enable them to move onto the more pictorial and then abstract where the maths is represented using mathematical symbols. A further explanation from Dr Yeap Ban Har of Maths No Problem, can be found here:
Depth before breadth
The design of our curriculum focuses on the children acquiring a deep understanding of the mathematical concepts which means that we spend longer time on topics really enabling the children to explore and apply ideas, rather than accelerate through new topics. This approach enables learners to truly grasp a concept, and the challenge comes from investigating it in new, alternative and more complex ways.
Using Mathematical Language
Our aim is for the children to have excellent reasoning skills, discussing patterns and relationships, make connections and make conjectures which can be tested and explored. To support us in this, we encourage the children to use mathematical vocabulary in all lessons, giving responses in full sentences, not just accepting the answer and within the context of the problem. We want the children to explain the why and the how in order to develop those reasoning skills.
A typical maths lesson at Two Mile Ash
We teach the whole class together and do not group by ability in our year groups where we are teaching for mastery. We have high expectations for all and believe that all children are capable of achieving and use robust formative assessment to ensure that every child’s needs are addressed. Each lesson has considered measures of support for children who may need additional support and sufficient challenges which go deeper for those who may grasp the concept more rapidly.
Contextualised problems are at the root of all lessons with children exploring and investigating possible solutions to problems themselves in the first instance which are then guided by a teacher, using a step by step and CPA approach to expose the structures of the mathematical concept and where appropriate, consider alternative strategies and make connections with other concepts in maths. Careful consideration is made to ensure that questions challenge the children’s thinking and focus on developing key reasoning skills, asking children to explain why and how they know in addition to looking for similarities and differences between strategies and approaches.
A typical lesson will involve regular interaction with the teachers, pupils and partnered work, building on the learning and promoting exploration and explanation. During each lesson, there are guided questions to support the assessment of the children’s understanding and employ intelligent practice, based on variation, rather than completing many like for like calculations.
Classes will then have an additional session where there is independent practice, challenge and support.
Rapid intervention (same day catch up) – in mathematics new learning is built upon previous understanding, so in order for learning to progress and to keep the class together, pupils need to be supported to keep up and areas of difficulty must be dealt with as and when they occur. We do this through same day interventions of 20 – 30 minutes later in the day. In addition, we still run intervention sessions outside of the maths lesson for some children who need additional support.
Marking – the marking policy has been created following the guidance of the NCETM. Current marking policy is that learning is ticked and a comment is only made if/when a teacher feels this is necessary to move learning forward. Gap tasks may appear for individual children in their books, but usually gaps are addressed through same – day catch up and therefore will not be recorded in books. The most valuable feedback is given during a lesson through pupil and teacher discussions.
SEN pupils – may be supported by additional adults, different resources, differentiated activities. They will also complete additional activities outside of the mathematics lesson. We do not label our children. We have high expectations of all children and strongly believe that all children are equally able in mathematics. Some may take longer to grasp concepts and may need careful scaffolding or extra time/support (guided groups, same day catch-up, additional homework, pre-teaching, intervention group, specific parent support).