How We Teach It – The Mastery Way

Written by Matthew Man Thursday, 31 January 2019

Edited and compiled by Robert J Smith @RJS2212

'How we teach - The Mastery Way' is a workshop being run by Matthew Man @mr_man_maths at #MathsConf18 on Saturday 9th March 2019, tickets still available.


If you work as a Maths teacher in a secondary school, chances are that your focus is primarily on your Year 11 or Year 13 classes and giving them the best chance to make the progress they need to obtain a good grade at the end of the year.

But what about our other year groups? In particular Key Stage 3. In 2015, Ofsted produced a document titled “Key Stage 3: the wasted years?” The findings include:

“In too many schools the quality of teaching and the rate of pupils’ progress and achievement was not good enough”.
“Inspectors reported concerns about Key Stage 3 in one in five of the routine inspections analysed, particularly in relation to the slow progress made in English and mathematics and the lack of challenge for the most able pupils.”

I have worked at my current secondary school since September 2012. During that time, until September 2016, we underwent a few different Schemes of Learning, but never got to a point where the pupils were “GCSE ready” at the start of Year 9. I along with other members of the Maths department just focused on making sure that our Year 11’s and 13’s perform, make progress and reach their Year 11 target.

How can Year 11’s reach their target grades if they have a poor experience of Mathematics at Key Stage 3? In response to this, my school decided to focus on a long term change and decided to radically transform the Key Stage 3 curriculum by hiring experienced primary school teachers, including James (@HowWeTeachIt), to use their knowledge and experience of KS2 mathematics to ensure that KS3 builds on the successes of students time in Primary while ensuring they continue the progress made in KS1 and 2 into KS3.

Initially, I had reservations, but as time went on, I became more convinced that what they do is the right approach for our Key Stage 3 pupils.

A new Scheme of Learning was introduced with an increased focus on three key areas within every topic, whether Number, Algebra, Ratio, Proportion and Rates of Change, Geometry or Handling Data. These were:

  • item 1
  • Fluency – varied and frequent practice with increasingly complex problems as lessons progress
  • item 2
  • Reasoning – Making conjectures, generalisations, justifying, arguing and proving methods using mathematical language
  • item 3
  • Problem solving – Applying maths to routine and non-routine problems, breaking down problems into bitesize chunks and persevering in finding solutions

This is the approach that is the norm in Primary practice and has been for a number of years, even before the new curriculum was introduced in 2014. The focus on ‘Using and Applying Mathematics’ with particular emphasis on Problem Solving, Communicating and Reasoning became enshrined in the three aims of the new primary (and secondary?) curriculum and increased the importance of exposing students to increasingly complex mathematical tasks that went beyond a simple requirement for students to do purely procedural mathematics.

The team decided, following inspiration by Steve from Kangaroo Maths, to change the three names to ‘Do It’ (Fluency), ‘Twist It’ (Reasoning) and ‘Deepen It’ (Problem Solving).

Our initial Do It planning had varied questions, with no links between questions, and no flexibility. After reflections from lessons, and reading books such as Craig Barton’s “How I Wish I’d Taught Maths”, we now include variation of questions where appropriate, better thought out questions, and more questions with flexibility of where pupils start with their work.

Examples of our work include:

Our Twist It planning initially were just worded problems, and fluency in words. Now, what we do include any of the following:

  • item 1
  • Which one doesn’t belong?
  • item 2
  • Spot the error
  • item 3
  • Multiple methods
  • item 4
  • Multiple solutions
  • item 5
  • Comparisons (structure)
  • item 6
  • Working backwards

Examples of our work include:

Our Deepen It planning focused on goal specific problems and had heavy cognitive load. However, our working memories are limited, and it can be hard for pupils to know where to start. So, James and I used Craig Barton’s “goal free effect” method and introduce more “Tell me what you know” problems. Examples of our work include:

We want to keep training the pupils and ask them “What maths can they do rather than what they do see?”, and to build connections.

Most importantly for our approach is how we use these resources to work towards a Teaching for Mastery approach. In my workshop, we will look at the three areas in more detail, and we will also discuss about assessments, revision techniques and the use of exit and entry cards.

This is a work in progress, and by all means, we haven’t yet found the perfect lesson for all topics. But I hope that by attending #mathsconf18 and signing up to this workshop, you will be able to gain inspiration into planning good to outstanding lessons for all pupils, and not just on the examination groups. Maybe, just maybe, you can join us in this exciting adventure!

Thank you.


You can see Matthew Man speak about "How we teach it - The Mastery Way" during #MathsConf18 at the City Academy Bristol on Saturday March 9th 2019.

Don't forget in March we also have our 'FREE' Maths Teacher Network events in association with Oxford University Press and AQA.

We look forward to seeing you at our next La Salle Education Event if you don't already, follow us on Twitter @LaSalleEd

About the Author

Matthew Man

Matthew (@MR_MAN_MATHS) entered teaching by studying for a PGDipEd at the University of Birmingham.

Since then, he has been teacher of Mathematics at a comprehensive secondary school in South West Birmingham for the past five years. He has worked closely with many colleagues, most notably Mel from @Just_Maths and James from @HowWeTeachIt.

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