Maths mastery method improves student engagement

Wednesday, 19th July 2017

Following a recent survey, it’s been revealed that half of teachers have seen attainment levels rise since adopting the mastery of maths method.

As many as six out of ten teachers have suggested that by using the maths mastery method, pupil engagement is rising. Half have also see the attainment level rise since they have been using the method.

A survey was recently carried out by TES involving 1,100 teachers. It showed that a confidence within their ability to teach was held by more than 80% of those that took part in the survey.

The mastery method of teaching is being heavily invested in by the Government – investing £41 million into primary schools.

The approach requires all pupils to work on the same lesson content at the same time.  The aim of the method is to encourage children to believe that when they work hard at Maths – they will succeed. Given this, the entire class will not move onto the next part of the curriculum until the whole class have understood what is being studied.

Helen Drury, executive director of the Mathematics Mastery professional development programme, believes that the approach provides a counterbalance to the high-stakes testing culture of English education.

“The messages around mastery are about a much deeper learning than that,” she said. “And that’s what teachers really went into teaching for.

“Taking more time in the first place, so students understand a concept, and then building on that – it just works.”

But Sue Pope, of the Association of Teachers of Mathematics, argued that breaking down the curriculum in this way can prove counterproductive. “Atomising the curriculum into tiny steps, and you can’t move on until you’ve mastered one step? Maths doesn’t always work like that,” she said. “It can take a long time before the penny drops and things start to fit together.”

The mastery method is used throughout Shanghai and Singapore. This has proved successful, given both regularly achieve high placings in the Programme for International Student Assessment survey.

But Marina Branco, maths lead at Primrose Hill Primary in North London, emphasised the importance of adapting the East Asian approach to suit her own pupils’ needs.

“In places like Singapore, primary maths teachers only teach maths,” she said. “They have a lot more time to analyse what works and doesn’t work. That’s the thing that’s a challenge for us in the UK: we don’t have much time to reflect on it.”

Will the method result in a higher level of results long term?

If you’re looking for support within Maths or any other subject in your School or Academy – contact Castles Education today on 0161 914 9185 or email