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News18th March 2013

New programme aims to radically improve how maths is taught

Last year ARK Schools launched Mathematics Mastery, a new approach to maths teaching and learning for primary and secondary schools. Drawing on good practice from ARK, the UK and abroad (in particular Singapore, which regularly leads international league tables), the programme seeks to address England’s under-achievement in maths by using a more focused approach to teaching.

How it works

Introduced through face-to-face workshops, the programme provides on-going mentoring support to teachers as well as regular school visits by experienced trainers. Teachers access teaching and learning materials – including lesson plans and a timetabling tool – through an exclusive online member tool kit, which also includes tips, videos, articles and a blog to help improve classroom practice. Feedback from teachers and pupils has been excellent and the programme is already being used by teachers beyond the ARK Schools’ network.

What is different about the Mathematics Mastery approach?

Dr Helen Drury, who developed the curriculum and directs the programme, says that it works by ensuring pupils really understand mathematical concepts, and avoids quick but superficial coverage of topics. For example, Mathematics Mastery uses objects and pictures before introducing numbers and symbols, so that pupils better understand the concepts they are attempting to tackle. It focuses on a teaching method that looks for patterns, solves problems and makes sense of numbers. “It’s a much more focused programme, which means children master their maths,” said Helen. “Pupils are expected to know their times tables, of course, but it’s not about learning maths by rote.”

Majida Ali, aged 12 and a pupil at ARK’s King Solomon Academy explains, “I didn’t really understand maths at first but I found it easier to understand when they used the diagrams and blocks and broke the equation down.”

Impact so far
Early results have shown that the programme has enabled the lowest-performing children to comfortably reach the expected standard for their age group. ARK Conway Primary Academy in Hammersmith, London, is one of the schools pioneering the teaching method. By December of Year 1, more than half ARK Conway pupils had achieved level two in mathematics, a year ahead of expectations.

Ofsted inspectors observed Mathematics Mastery classes at ARK Academy to see how the approach could be adopted more widely. They concluded “Pupils are developing a high level of proficiency for their age in addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. This is underpinned by a secure understanding of place value and good recall of number facts.”

The Education Endowment Foundation has funded Mathematics Mastery training, curriculum materials and independent evaluation for 90 schools, of which 36 began implementing the approach this academic year. So far, more than 2,000 children are benefiting from this new approach.

Mathematics Mastery is looking for more schools to join the programme. If you work in a primary or secondary school or would like to know more, please click here.