Maths Mastery: Insights from a Year 3 Maths Leader


Name: Miss Emma Suttle

Title: Maths Leader, Year 3 Teacher

School: Alderman Jacobs School




What is Mathematics Mastery and why is it important?




Maths mastery: a key buzz-word in current education. But is it just the latest fad, or is there some merit to this initiative?



It is visual, it is practical, and it is something that I have found can build strong foundations in the classroom from which to build greater things. And most importantly, ALL children can access a mastery curriculum.





When was this method of teaching maths introduced in your school?


We began dabbling with mastery approaches towards the end of the summer term in 2016, but we launched it whole-heartedly as a school this academic year, and with great success. Our children are responding fantastically to this approach and progress is really being made.



What resources do you rely on to deliver maths lessons in this style?


Teachers follow the concrete-pictorial-abstract approach in their teaching, and use a wide range of resources to support learning including Singapore Maths Textbooks and mastery curriculum aids such as the White Rose scheme. Maths mastery requires lots of work with physical objects first to help visualise the concept; anything from cubes, to toy animals, to biscuits and cake (that was a good lesson!)


LER 3552 brights!™ Base Ten Classroom Set



Have you seen an improvement in your pupils understanding of maths concepts since introducing this method?


One of the changes that came with making the move to a mastery  approach was something we call the ‘anchor task’ – a child led learning opportunity where the teacher takes a step back and guides the learning instead of dictating it. For example; during a lesson on different types of angles I put three pairs of congruent lines on the board and asked the children “What’s the difference?” The first 5 minutes or so were unfruitful, to say the least. However, it only took one child to pick up his ruler and start trying to measure the angles to trigger a train of thought amongst the others: we can measure this, but how? Eventually they came to the notion of measuring the size of the turn between the two lines (thankfully not with a ruler) and were using language such as “this is bigger than a right angle, smaller than a right angle.” This was something we as teachers found difficult at first – it’s hard not to leap in and intervene – but by letting them arrive at the answer for themselves, the children retain that information for longer and receive a greater sense of satisfaction for having been successful in their discovery.


What type of maths activities are the most popular amongst pupils?

I’ve developed something in school which we call Rainbow Maths – it’s something I keep tight lipped about as it’s a closely guarded secret, but it draws heavily on Bloom’s Taxonomy and the idea of the ‘anchor task’ in order to allow children to explore a mathematical concept and go as in depth with it as they personally can, as individuals. Plus they get to use coloured pens, which excites them more than you’d think!


What advice would you give to parents who are looking to support their children’s maths learning at home?

There’s so much out there at the moment that it can be a bit of a minefield. I’d always start by asking your child’s class teacher – they’re more than willing to help and more often than not there will be examples of how they teach maths in school on their website. This just means we can all work together on one approach, rather than confusing our children with multiple different methods. Learning through play is incredibly valuable and drawing maths problems out into bar shapes to help visualise the idea you’re working on.


*Discover more and browse our selection of Maths Mastery resources for the classroom and home.

Related reads:

What is Mathematics Mastery?

Base Ten: The Maths Mastery Manipulative