'Mastery Explained'

Essentially, mastery means acquiring a deep, long-term, secure and adaptable understanding of the subject (in this case mathematics). Achieving mastery is taken to mean acquiring a solid enough understanding of the maths that has been taught to enable him/her to move on to more advanced material. At St. Michael’s we call this ‘mastery at greater depth’ with all children being encouraged to challenge themselves to this level.

How do we aim to support and guide our Mathematical Masters?

A mastery approach to the curriculum means pupils spend far longer on fewer key mathematical concepts whilst working at greater depth. Long term gaps in learning are prevented through speedy teacher intervention and those children who grasp the concepts more quickly are given opportunities to deepen their knowledge and improve their reasoning skills rather than accelerating on to new curriculum content.

 In the paper, ‘The Essence of Maths Teaching for Mastery’, published June 2016, the fundamentals are laid further bare:


  • Maths teaching for mastery rejects the idea that a large proportion of people ‘just can’t do maths’.
  • All pupils are encouraged by the belief that by working hard at maths they can succeed. (Supported by our I Can culture at St. MJs!)
  • Lesson design identifies the new mathematics that is to be taught, the key points, the difficult points and a carefully sequenced journey through the learning. In a typical lesson pupils sit facing the teacher and the teacher leads back and forth interaction, including questioning, short tasks, explanation, demonstration, and discussion.


  • Procedural fluency and conceptual understanding are developed in tandem because each supports the development of the other.
  • It is recognised that practice is a vital part of learning, but the practice used is intelligent practice that both reinforces pupils’ procedural fluency and develops their conceptual understanding.
  • Significant time is spent developing deep knowledge of the key ideas that are needed to underpin future learning. The structure and connections within the mathematics are emphasised, so that pupils develop deep learning that can be sustained.

 Key facts such as multiplication tables and addition facts within 10 are learnt to automaticity to avoid cognitive overload in the working memory and enable pupils to focus on new concepts