The NCETM and Maths Hubs have been running the national Primary Teaching for Mastery Programme since 2015. This programme has now been expanded to secondary schools.

Mastering maths means pupils acquiring a deep, long-term, secure and adaptable understanding of the subject.

The phrase ‘teaching for mastery’ describes the elements of classroom practice and school organisation that combine to give pupils the best chances of mastering maths.

Key principles of teaching for mastery include:

  • A rejection of the idea that some people just cannot do maths.
  • Whole class teaching, where the focus is on all pupils working together on the same lesson content – leaving no pupil behind.
  • Use of early intervention to ensure that pupils who struggle to grasp a concept are ready to move on in subsequent lessons.
  • Lesson design ensures that learning is built in small steps, while learning is clearly sequenced and identifies key points and areas which pupils are more likely find difficult.
  • Procedural fluency and conceptual understanding are developed in tandem because each supports the development of the other.
  • The structure and connections within the mathematics are emphasised, so that pupils develop deep learning that can be sustained. This is supported by the use of well-chosen manipulatives and representations.
  • A central element, which underpins Teaching for Mastery, are the Five Big Ideas. The diagram below shows how these ideas are bound together.

More information can be found on the NCETM website.

Stages of the Primary Teaching for Mastery Programme:

  • Mastery Readiness (optional): This programme is for schools who have a commitment to developing a teaching for mastery approach long term, but who currently need additional support for improving mathematics teaching, learning and leadership.
  • Developing Teaching for Mastery: Led by Mastery Specialists, this programme is for schools who have a commitment to developing a teaching for mastery approach. Although the participation involves two teachers attending events outside of school, it is expected that these two teachers lead development across the whole school. Schools who have completed the Mastery Readiness Programme move on to this programme automatically.
  • Embedding Teaching for Mastery: Schools who participated in Teaching for Mastery Development in the previous year are eligible to continue into this Work Group. Comprising of half-termly TRGs and one school visit from the Specialist during the year. These groups aim to support schools in embedding structures and systems to ensure that all teachers are supported to implement teaching for mastery across the whole school.
  • Sustaining Teaching for Mastery: Any school that has previously engaged in Developing or Embedding Teaching for Mastery are eligible to join a Sustaining Work Group. These groups seek to establish continuing support for collaborative planning and specialist subject knowledge development in primary schools.


Stages of the Secondary Teaching for Mastery Programme:

  • Developing Teaching for Mastery: Secondary maths teachers whose schools want to introduce teaching for mastery can nominate two teachers (‘Mastery Advocates’) to join a Work Group. These Advocates then form part of a locally-based group of teachers who meet regularly to develop professional knowledge and expertise, and receive bespoke support. In the Work Group, teachers collaborate with colleagues from local schools, and get support and guidance from a Local Leader of Maths Education.
  • Embedding Year Support: Schools who participated in Developing Teaching for Mastery in the previous year are eligible to continue into this Work Group. A Mastery Specialist will provide three days of bespoke support tailored to each school to help them to embed teaching for mastery approaches across the whole department. Additionally, each school will also be supported via the Embedding and Sustaining Teaching for Mastery Work Group.
  • Embedding and Sustaining Teaching for Mastery: All departments that have previously participated in Teaching for Mastery Development Work Groups and those with Mastery Specialists are eligible to join these Work Groups. Mastery Advocates will meet regularly throughout the year to share and critique development within their departments.