Subscribe to our free fortnightly newsletter and stay ahead with the latest news in edtech

Four steps to make every child a master of maths

Tony Staneff, series editor of DfE-approved maths mastery textbook, Power Maths KS1, outlines how leaders can embed the approach across their school

Posted by Julian Owen | May 23, 2018 | Teaching

So you’ve heard about mastery for a few years now and you may still be wondering what it means. In my work with schools and teachers across the country, I know there’s a lot of confusion around the different interpretations of mastery and how to bring the practice into the classroom. So, here are four practical tips to help teach maths as effectively as possible and ensure every child achieves.

1. Encourage a positive ethos across the school with mathematics

Ask yourself: what are the expectations of children in your school with maths? Are children working on “ability” tables and being pigeonholed too early? It can often be the case that prior attainment causes teachers to assume that some children may not be able to succeed in a new topic.

Promoting a positive and growth mindset towards mathematics is a fundamental part of the mastery approach, as teachers are encouraged to ensure that all pupils have - or are given - the background knowledge to succeed, and there is no limit placed on their attainment. This should be a constant message delivered throughout the school year. If pupils are struggling, this doesn’t mean they can’t do maths – it’s important to look at the factors affecting achievement in the lesson; for instance, do they have the prerequisite knowledge or is too much content being covered?

2. Support classroom teachers with their planning

School leaders should encourage teachers to spend longer on topics and go deeper. This is what happens in some of the most successful education settings across the world and it also supports how our brain works. Look at a curriculum that takes a small steps approach and avoids sending children into cognitive overload by covering too much too quickly.

"Whether you have the best teachers of maths in the world, or those that need more development, we can all keep learning."

While forgetting is part of the learning journey for every child, leading academic Daniel Willingham says that “memory is the residue of thought”, so it’s important that children are thinking in lessons. Ask teachers to consider how they can structure their lessons to spark curiosity, and use plenty of affirming types of questions.

3. Teach for meaning and understanding

Too many children see maths as an abstract concept and can therefore switch off if they don’t have the necessary understanding. Do pupils need to know that 2 x 5 = 10 or know why 2 x 5 = 10? The most effective way of children understanding mathematics is if the abstract has some meaning and understanding. Encourage teachers to use concrete manipulatives and images such as the bar model. Schools should look for resources that are full of images linking the underpinning mathematics with the abstract calculations.

4. Seek help

Whether you have the best teachers of maths in the world, or those that need more development, we can all keep learning.

Steps to improvement can include conducting an audit, getting in touch with your local maths hub, or looking into funding for DfE-approved textbooks as part of the Teaching for Mastery national programme. Investing in your staff’s CPD as part of a wider development plan for maths is crucial, as is allowing your teachers to do maths together on a regular basis.

Tony Staneff is the mastery team leader at White Rose Maths and series editor of Power Maths KS1, a whole-class mastery programme approved by the DfE and written to comprehensively deliver the UK National Curriculum for key stage one.

For more information about Power Maths, please visit: For a handy, free guide on maths mastery, please visit:



Subscribe to our free fortnightly newsletter and stay ahead with the latest news in edtech

Related stories

Female students score highly in latest BTEC results

Idris Elba joins campaign to fight illiteracy

Classic children'€™s tales still popular

Market place - view all

Document Solutions

With our experience we help organisations to optimise their entire ...


Award winning online banking: whether it's current accounts, credit...

Solardome Industries Limited

At Solardome Industries we are the UK's only manufacturer of glass and...