Mathematics Mastery and the new Ofsted framework: Why our partner schools can be confident we’re on the same page

Blog: Helen Williams , Director of Primary | Posted: 22/09/15
Mathematics Mastery and the new Ofsted framework: Why our partner schools can be confident we’re on the same page
It won’t have escaped anyone’s notice that Ofsted have published their Handbook for School Inspections from September 2015.

We’ve been taking a look at the new framework to see how it fits with our approach to teaching mathematics here at Mathematics Mastery: depth before breadth, keeping the whole class together, developing conceptual understanding through the use of concrete and pictorial apparatus, promoting mathematical thinking and developing mathematical language through talk tasks.  We’re pleased to say there’s a good match!

1. Tackling inconsistency

The inspection of mathematics is rightly given a prominent position in the new framework, with separate maths guidance for inspectors. Inspectors will examine:

how well the school is identifying and tackling inconsistency in the quality of mathematics teaching between different groups of pupils, key stages, sets and classes, including those taught by non-specialist teachers of mathematics in secondary schools”

Our Development Leads support all schools in our collaborative partnership, as well as writing and reviewing high quality teacher support materials.  They work with senior leaders and Mathematics Mastery Subject Leads within schools to ensure that the quality of teaching is consistent across classes.  Our integrated professional development, including video exemplification on our website means that non-specialists can feel supported in all mathematical topics.

2. Mathematical reasoning

in the mathematics lessons observed, through discussions with pupils and scrutiny of their work and by reviewing curriculum plans, how well teaching:

  •  fosters mathematical understanding of new concepts and methods, including teachers’ explanations and the way they require pupils to think and reason mathematically for themselves

Mathematics Mastery lesson guides help teachers to do this by providing plenty of opportunities for pupils to investigate planned open questions that require them to sort and compare, seek patterns and look for rules.

3. Multiple representations

  • ensures that pupils acquire mathematical knowledge appropriate to their age and starting points and enables them to recall it rapidly and apply it fluently and accurately, including when calculating efficiently and in applying arithmetic algorithms
  • uses resources and approaches to enable pupils in the class to understand and master the mathematics they are learning

Mathematics Mastery teaching emphasises the importance of using concrete, pictorial and abstract approaches to the teaching of mathematics throughout a pupil’s school career and that pupils will need to go back and forth between them, rather than seeing these as separate stages of learning.

4. Communicating mathematically

  • develops depth of understanding and readiness for the next stage

Depth of understanding in Mathematics Mastery is developed through pupils’ communication about maths using the correct mathematical language. We ask pupils to explain, justify and prove their ideas so that they are deepening their understanding of a concept.

5. Problem solving

  • enables pupils to solve a variety of mathematical problems, applying the mathematical knowledge and skills they have been taught
  • enables pupils to apply their mathematical knowledge and skills in other subjects in the curriculum, where appropriate.”

Problem-solving is at the heart of the mastery approach, so we make sure we dedicate sufficient time to each new concept or skill, so every pupil can gain the reasoning they need to solve new problems in unfamiliar contexts. In Mathematics Mastery, our pupils are expected to all solve the same investigations by the end of the lesson, meaning the key concepts and objectives are met by all pupils. Instead of accelerating higher attainers onto new content, teachers in our partnership differentiate through depth, to develop pupils’ conceptual understanding.

6. Teachers have high expectations and know their maths

In making their overall judgement in assessing the quality of teaching in the school, inspectors will be looking at whether:

“teachers and other staff have consistently high expectations of what each pupil can achieve, including the most able and disadvantaged pupils”

“teachers and other staff have a secure understanding of the age group they are working with and have relevant subject knowledge that is detailed and communicated well to pupils”

Here at Mathematics Mastery, we have developed a teaching curriculum that has high expectations for every child, spends more time on fewer topics and focuses teaching on using mathematics principles to problem-solve. We believe that all children can get better at maths when they put in the effort and work at it. To this end, we have developed a series of curriculum resources that promote high expectations.  Combined with the training we offer teachers, the school development visits and the collaborative cluster meetings, we feel that this both sets out our high expectations and develops teacher subject knowledge.

7. Assessing for mastery

“assessment information is gathered from looking at what pupils already know, understand and can do, and is informed by their parents/previous providers as appropriate in the early years”

“assessment information is used to plan appropriate teaching and learning strategies, including to identify pupils who are falling behind in their learning or who need additional support, enabling pupils to make good progress and achieve well”

“except in the case of the very young, pupils understand how to improve as a result of useful feedback, written or oral, from teachers”

Through our training, we strongly promote the principle that no child is left behind and that interventions, based on the teacher’s expert knowledge about what pupils know and can do, help youngsters to “keep up, not catch up”. We offer a series of pre- and post-learning assessments to help teachers to track pupils’ gains in progress over the course of a topic, and tailor learning to suit individual pupils’ needs. Equal opportunities are promoted through our belief that all children can succeed in mathematics. Links are made wherever possible to real-life opportunities so that mathematics is seen as “real”.

8. Pupils who love learning

Finally, in looking at the grade descriptors for outstanding teaching, Ofsted inspectors will want to see evidence that:

“Pupils love the challenge of learning and are resilient to failure. They are curious, interested learners who seek out and use new information to develop, consolidate and deepen their knowledge, understanding and skills. They thrive in lessons and also regularly take up opportunities to learn through extra-curricular activities.”

“Pupils are eager to know how to improve their learning. They capitalise on opportunities to use feedback, written or oral, to improve.”

Having joined pupils in Mathematics Mastery lessons and heard teachers’ feedback from how the lessons are received by pupils, we can vouch for the fact that this definitely seems to be the case!

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