Being a successful Maths Mastery School Lead

Guest blog: Francis O'Kane, St Joseph's Roman Catholic Primary School, Brent

Being a successful Maths Mastery School Lead

Posted: 20/10/14

My MMSL role at St. Joseph’s is to ensure the successful implementation of Mathematics Mastery (“MM”) in Year 1. This is our first year involved with the programme. Having heard great things about the rationale and vision of Mathematics Mastery, we were keen to come on board, coupled with the fact that we were having to adapt our teaching and learning to match the requirements for the new curriculum and knew that MM covered all aspects of that.

My role included attending training alongside our year 1 teachers in addition to providing support and guidance to them. Once a week I meet with the class teachers and plan out the lesson to suit the needs of our pupils. We decided, rather than myself leading the teaching, it would be more effective and beneficial to team-teach the lessons. This has been very beneficial, reflective and a lot of fun! After our lessons, we meet to reflect on how the learning went – what worked well, and what could we do better. This is then something we work to improve for the next lesson.

So far this has helped to improve the pace of our teaching, our questioning, assessment for learning, classroom management and differentiation. In St. Joseph’s we have a very reflective staff who often peer observe their colleagues, providing positive, yet critical feedback in order to improve their performance. So the team teaching with MM has proven to be an added bonus where we can really hone in on tightening aspects of our teaching to ensure the pupils get the very best out of every lesson. Our head teacher has been extremely supportive, observing lessons, asking how it is going and how she can support in making things easier.

Naturally, there have been some challenges in implementing the programme. There is the fear of the unknown. Do I as MMSL and Mathematics Co-ordinator know all the terms and theory behind each of the units and lessons? Do our teachers feel confident teaching this, which has new aspects they never taught before?

But very quickly, within the first few weeks, we all became confident in using the lesson plans and the six part lesson structure. The pupils very quickly got used to the tight transitions, talk tasks and independent tasks. We found the online resources very useful, with videos summarising succinctly the theory and rationale for teaching concepts using certain methods. The array of resources to use with the pupils taking the lead in distributing them on a daily basis to promote independent learners was a scary thought, but is gradually becoming slicker. Adapting the task sheets to meet the needs of our pupils and differentiating at different points throughout the lesson has proven challenging.

There have been elements we have tried and trialled which have not worked and we had to go back to the drawing board. Luckily, our class teachers took the lead in being innovative in developing work that matched pupils of differing attainment. This is one of our biggest areas for development over the next few weeks and months. Consistency is vital. Consistency across all classes and teachers but also from one day to the next.

Our biggest success so far has come with two outside visitors coming in to observe our implementation of the programme. One, a headteacher from a school in the Midlands, coming to see outstanding practice and take ideas back to his school, the other a local authority leader who had never heard of MM. Both were very impressed by the teaching but more so, by the learning they saw. The language they heard spoken by our pupils, the collaboration and use of concrete manipulates and pictorial representations to aid their understanding, the light bulb moments and the fun they saw the children having! That gave us great reassurance that we are doing a good job and that we are on the right track at this early stage in the year.

If you ask me what makes a successful MMSL, I would tell you first and foremost, vision and belief. In order for the programme to work within your school, you need to believe in the core principles and rationale of MM. Having taught in schools, in Ireland, US and the UK, I have witnessed those pupils who fall behind in KS2 due to not totally grasping or understanding the basic number system.  Observing the CPA model in practice, I have seen how it can be so beneficial in reaching out to all learners, visual and kinaesthetic included. A vision for MM that compliments the vision of your school is essential. A journey into the unknown, but one where the expected outcome and goal is very well known.

Having belief in your classroom teachers is vital. They need to be the ones that feel your energy and belief but take the reins. They need to be the leaders. That will prove whether the programme is successful. While working with the class teachers – being reflective, hearing about the disasters, rolling up the sleeves, admitting that you have been wrong, don’t expect anything unless you are willing to do it yourself and celebrating every milestone. These all help a successful MMSL.

The greatest ‘wow’ moments, more so than outside visitor compliments, are the countless light bulb moments in the class with one-on-one pupil interactions. When the pupils make connections and show you their learning using the materials or those with EAL, who, without being reminded, can state the answer in full sentences, using high-level mathematical vocabulary.

We are looking forward to the cluster meetings to share outstanding practice with other schools and to hear other people’s trials and successes to date. We hope to roll out MM into Year 2 next year. As for anything else, we are focusing on each day at a time!