A review of how we embed the key principles from mastery maths into our 1-to-1 tuition programmes – from a La Salle Education Maths Mastery training day 

“Mastery learning is a method of teaching that requires that students master a skill before moving on to the next skill. Students must demonstrate mastery of a skill by scoring sufficiently high on a formative assessment (e.g., 80%–90% correct) before moving to the next topic.” (What Works Clearinghouse, 2012)

This approach, adopted in Shanghai and Singapore has been exceptionally effective especially when started right from the beginning of a child’s formal education –  Year 1 or even Reception. It can be trickier to implement with, for example your current Year 4s or 6s, who have already moved along the conveyer belt of education whether they have mastered previous concepts or not.

Last week I went along to La Salle Education’s targeted CPD event on Mastery in Mathematics to find out what I could learn, and whether there are any additional ways we can be supporting the mastery approach that so many of our 1-to-1 Maths pupils are now following in school.

Mastery is, of course, not a new fad…it has been around for thousands of years in good teaching and learning. For an insightful and fascinating read on this, see Mark McCourt’s Emaths Blog, and his posts on mastery. Start here: https://markmccourt.blogspot.co.uk/2016/10/teaching-for-mastery-part-1.html.

Research has shown that regardless of whether you have a school-wide maths mastery approach, even implementing maths mastery principles will have a positive influence on your child’s learning. At Third Space Learning we know that these maths mastery principles are not only effective in improving attainment but confidence too.

So what are these mastery principles and how does Third Space use them?

  • High expectations and deep understanding

We have high expectations of all our pupils and work hard to encourage a deep understanding of the concepts covered in our lessons. An example of this is our four step approach – seen below:

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These steps encourage metacognition (thinking about their own thinking), improve verbal reasoning and create opportunities for pupils to extend and make connections throughout different areas of maths.

  • Assessing pre-requisite knowledge and formative assessment

Each of our lessons have warm up questions that test the pre requisite knowledge for that lesson. This gives a tutor the opportunity to diagnose possible gaps and the ability to navigate to specific lessons in order to plug those gaps – in real time! In addition, each of our lessons end with a short post session quiz which act as regular, low stake formative questions to inform the tutor if there are any areas that need reviewing or intervention in the following week.

  • Growth mindset

Grit and perseverance are essential attributes to mastering concepts and skills and nurturing a belief that ability is not fixed, but rather developed through practice, is an important aspect of what Third Space does with our pupils. Tutors instil this ethos lesson by lesson through specific praise and rewarding effort rather than outcomes.

The results of this nurturing can produce a rapid change in pupils. Last term, 73% of our pupils who disagreed with this statement at the start of term ‘Everyone could do well if they worked hard’, radically changed their opinion by the end of the intervention to believe that the harder you work, the better you do. That’s what we’re looking for. Not a floor standard, not a set level of attainment (although that can be helpful) but a larger attitudinal change that pupils can carry with them throughout their life.  

Want to learn more about Maths mastery? Read our Primary Teacher’s Guide to Becoming a Maths Mastery Expert.

Candida Crawford , Teacher , Third Space Learning

With over 10 years of classroom teaching experience, Candida now works at Third Space with a focus on improving learner progress through curriculum design and tutor training.