Jack Ritchie | Director of Improvement for Maths | Leigh Academies Trust
On the success of Mathematics Mastery
Within 5 months, our teachers were expressing strong appreciation for the resources, the support with departmental workshops and planning, the programme’s initial focus on Year 7s and, most importantly, the positive impact on their teaching.
When I asked our teachers to drop me a note about the programme, comments were resoundingly positive, including one who said, ‘After just one term, the way that I teach maths has changed. The focus now is not on exam technique and exam content; we are now focussed on how we shift progress for pupils of all abilities.’
Another said, ‘Mathematics Mastery continually tests my own subject knowledge, specifically in terms of using mathematical vocabulary. It is allowing me to explore and expand my own mathematical thinking and vocabulary, which I am now embedding into a range of different classes and year groups. Planning for Mathematics Mastery lessons is more interesting and makes me think outside of the typical lesson format; it is evolving me into a more effective teacher.’
The weekly Departmental Workshops have been one of the key features to make the programme a success. Although ringfencing 1 hour a week may seem like a luxury, the impact of consistent high-quality professional development is not just seen in Year 7 lessons. As the quotes above suggest, the pedagogy discussed and developed expands teachers’ skills and feeds into their teaching of other classes.
As a multi-academy trust, coming together for Cluster Departmental Workshops also helped staff to share experiences in the early stages of implementation. The first Cluster workshop on Negative Numbers in week 1 provided an amazing insight for the need to ensure consistent language, explanations, conceptual development and rigorous sequencing of learning.
SLT and MAT support
The support from the Senior Leadership Team in each of our academies, and in particular the line managers of maths, has been essential in keeping the implementation of the programme on track. Principals were very supportive and allowed every maths teacher across Leigh Academies Trust (LAT) to attend the initial Mathematics Mastery training day held at Strood Academy in July.
LAT understands the need to invest in professional development for its teachers particularly if, as LAT desires, its teachers are to deliver long-term, systemic change in the way our students learn maths. Mathematics Mastery has provided numerous opportunities for professional development and collaboration which has ensured that teachers delivering this programme are empowered to deliver this change.
LAT affords autonomy to academies for their individual curriculums and therefore it was important that Mathematics Mastery was not imposed on them. That leaders driving implementation needed to see the benefits and be an advocate of the programme.
Once all were on board, however, there was a need to ensure that the programme was implemented effectively across our secondary schools and to ensure consistent practices. As such, we worked up a Partnership Agreement which confirmed the level of support that would be provided by LAT and what the academy was required to do prior to implementation including, for example, the buying of manipulative, the appointment of a maths lead in each school and dedicated time for departmental planning and professional development.
The impact on pupils after the first year was clear. When pupils from the trial academies were surveyed, 92% of them said they enjoyed maths during the year.
I particularly noticed how pupils were thriving from using the correct mathematical language. It has driven how they communicate their understanding and make links between topics.
There has also been a welcome shift away from differentiation being seen as pre-determined tasks for different pupils. Staff are now given the opportunity to differentiate more accurately to meet the needs of each pupil. Maths Mastery rich tasks enable this because they have a low floor but a high ceiling. This has meant that different ability pupils have a different depth of conceptual understanding more visibly assessed by teachers through the way they communicate their understanding.
As one pupil commented, “I don’t just do Maths now, I think Maths.”
About Leigh Academies Trust
Leigh Academies Trust (LAT) launched in 2008 and teaches more than 15,000 students across 13 primary and 10 secondary schools in Kent, Medway and South East London.
Like all schools around the UK, they are meeting the challenges of new GCSE and A-level specifications, and challenges with recruitment and retention of teachers.
A distinctive feature of LAT is that it was the first non-selective MAT in England to implement the IB Middle Years Programme across all of it secondaries. As Jack says, “There are clear links between the IB MYP and Maths Mastery as the core principles are very similar: The IB’s Knowing & Understanding, Investigating Patterns, Communicating, Applying Maths in Real-life Contexts align neatly to Mathematics Mastery’s Conceptual Understanding, Mathematical Thinking, Language & Communication and Mathematical Problem Solving.
Then contact our friendly partnerships team who will be happy to talk you through the programmes and help you decide on the right approach for your school.
As teachers ourselves, we understand how extraordinarily difficult this period has been for all schools. We have made some important changes to our mastery programmes this year to help support you in the months ahead.