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Mastery Maths

Mathematics and being Mathematicians

In the Acorn we are passionate about supporting all children to have a positive learning attitude towards mathematics. We aim to create a culture where all learning is seen within the context of meaning and purpose; learning is a journey we are all on, it is not something that is being done to us. As such, when talking about maths in The Acorn, we talk about “being mathematicians”. We aim to develop children’s reasoning, logical thinking and problem solving skills by providing rich mathematical experiences where children can apply their knowledge of mathematics to everyday life.

Organisation of the curriculum

The new National Curriculum forms the basis for our long term planning; setting out the expectations in each year group. Our medium term planning organises the topics systematically term by term and our short term unit plans are prepared for daily teaching.

Maths Mastery

We have been working with other schools within and beyond the CLF and the Boolean Maths Hub to explore maths mastery. We have engaged in a range of professional development looking at mastery approaches. Key aspects from maths mastery are deployed in the Early Years including: covering less but going deeper; adopting the concrete, pictorial, abstract approach; keeping concepts simple and groups fluid. In Year 1 we have a toolkit of textbooks from Inspire, Maths No Problem and Numicon as well as resources from the NCTEM website. We use these text books alongside other methods of planning, teaching and assessing young children rather than following a limited text book scheme.

Intelligence and deliberate practice

A key feature of teaching for mastery is the precise design of pupil activities and practice questions, so that pupils are taken down a path where the thinking process is practised with increasing creativity rather than pupils repeating a mechanical activity. The arrangement of these tasks and exercises draw pupils’ attention to patterns, structure and mathematical relationships, thus providing ‘intelligent practice’ and the opportunity to deepen conceptual understanding. We use a range of significant strategies to develop and enhance the learning and teaching of mathematics.

Whole class + small groups

Adopting some of the key concepts of mastery in mathematics, including starting a piece of learning with the whole class, all children are taught a concept, and then smaller groups explore, consolidate and take the learning deeper. The groups are flexible depending on the daily assessment from the teacher of each child’s understanding.

Pace and depth

The teaching team follow the concrete, pictorial and abstract (CPA) approach to mathematics. The children begin their learning in the concrete with a range of manipulatives to support their understanding. As their conceptual understanding develops they move towards the pictorial representation of the learning and finally to the abstract numeral and symbols. The children are able to record the ‘real story’ and the ‘maths story’. Children are not pushed to move through these stages until they have shown understanding which the teaching team assess. If the children are secure in their understanding the teaching team will deepen their understanding through reasoning and application of skills or a change of manipulatives. They will not accelerate the children to the next year group’s concepts.

Role of the teacher

The teaching team are there to support the learning not ‘do’ the learning. Their role in the lesson is to: demonstrate a clear model to the children; allow time for discussion and pair work; continually assess children’s understanding; provide support or scaffolding when needed; present challenge and develop understanding through expert questioning.

Fluency, reasoning and problem solving

Throughout the year we have been supporting the children to develop the key aspects of fluency, reasoning and problem solving. Deliberate practice around children describing their thinking in full sentences and being asked to prove or disprove a mathematical concept is embedded into maths teaching. This core mathematical skill enables teachers to uncover misconceptions, assess and challenge the children. The time to practise mental skills is built into the school day to increase children’s fluency.

Line of enquiry

To complement the regular maths lessons and to ensure children have an opportunity to enquire, explore and problem solve in mathematics, we plan in times to investigate mathematics either in an adult led activity or during child-initiated discovery.

Mathematics – Family learning

We have supported our families to understand the way mathematics is organised and taught in The Acorn and explored how they can support the learning at home. A maths workshop was run to support families in their understanding of the principles behind the maths being taught in the Acorn.


We have worked closely with the Boolean Maths Hub throughout the year to further develop our understanding of the mastery approach to mathematics. In addition to this the phase leader and maths lead have observed mastery maths teaching in a local outstanding school and the Shanghai teaching sessions.

Development of written calculation policy – CLF

The CLF ‘Towards Written Calculation Policy’ has been shaped and crafted to take into account the new Age Related Standards. There is a clear progression within the planning of the four operations. This overview adds to the range of tools and documents to support the planning, teaching and assessment of mathematics in The Acorn.

Use of manipulatives

There has been significant investment in a range of models and manipulatives including numicon, Cuisenaire and Dienes. We think carefully about how and when these resources are used to support and deepen pupils understanding in mathematics. These resources are always at hand in the classroom and the children are encouraged to use them when they feel they need to.