‘Maths mastery makes setting according to ability irrelevant’

The TES reports that maths mastery allows classrooms to become places where struggles and mistakes are seen as normal and in the end become a positive sign that good learning is taking place, writes one education academic.

In mathematics, some of the mastery approaches being developed in UK schools are informed by South Asian approaches to teaching – in particular, Shanghai Maths and Singapore Maths.

We wanted to find out what impact mastery approaches had on teachers. A small-scale collaborative study with teachers in the Deep Learning Alliance on Merseyside has focused on significant changes in teachers’ underlying beliefs during their adoption of the Maths – No Problem! Singapore Maths mastery programme.

Seven teacher researchers captured classroom video during a mastery maths lesson and were subsequently interviewed to discuss their teaching strategies. Pupil interviews and teacher focus groups provided further insight, including into the role of the textbooks.

There is a strong cultural belief in Britain about the need for schools to put children into in-class groups or different sets according to their “ability”. This belief has persisted despite the research evidence that shows grouping or setting has little or no beneficial impact on children’s learning and is damaging for children placed in lower groups or sets. This belief about grouping is shared by many teachers, school managers, parents and even government ministers, and is particularly strong in the subject of maths.

Welcoming struggle and mistakes as opportunities for learning is a key step in helping children to develop a growth mindset; a positive belief that the harder you work, the more intelligent you become. In the study, teachers showed signs of developing their own mathematical growth mindset, as well as projecting a growth mindset by setting high expectations for all children.

There is a general consensus that many school textbooks are dull and may lead to low-quality teaching and learning. In the research, the Maths – No Problem! textbooks were usually not brought into use until halfway through the lesson. After an initial period of exploring the anchor problem, the children share their different solutions and complete a journal entry to record and reflect on their learning. The textbook is brought out and provides some example solutions and then some carefully designed practice problems for the children to work on.

Read the full article ‘Maths mastery makes setting according to ability irrelevant’

Would you welcome this approach to teaching? Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin

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