The National Curriculum For Maths: From Teacher To Master

“In order for teachers to develop the confidence to deliver a mastery curriculum we need to empower them to take risks in the classroom.”

Rebecca Hamburger explains how to go from teacher to master:

All too often when I am delivering whole school CPD, I ask the question: “Who loves maths?” and only a few teachers raise their hands. When asked why they didn’t raise their hands, teachers will often cite unhappy learning experiences at school. Why should this matter? Because for too many teachers their own learning has been based on procedures and number. They do not see the creativity and beauty in mathematics. If they cannot see it, we cannot expect them to be able to share it with children.

The National Curriculum states that:

“Mathematics is a creative and highly inter-connected discipline…… A high-quality mathematics education therefore provides a foundation for understanding the world, the ability to reason mathematically, an appreciation of the beauty and power of mathematics, and a sense of enjoyment and curiosity about the subject.” [1]

When the DfE’s new vision for maths teaching was unveiled in 2014 it soon became clear that many teachers lacked both the subject knowledge and in-depth understanding of the pedagogy necessary to see it come to fruition. Without sufficient subject knowledge and a good understanding of the related pedagogy, the implementation of those laudable but lofty ideals becomes challenging.

So how can teachers be better supported in their delivery of the National Curriculum?

A good starting point is high-quality CPD; pedagogy has come a long way since some teachers’ negative experiences of maths lessons at school and, for many, since their ITT. During these CPD sessions, negative and failing fixed ideas can be supplanted with cutting-edge practices. Key to this is the importance of problem solving, the development of reasoning and a shift from process learning to conceptual understanding and fluency.  Further, quality CPD sessions give teachers the opportunity to grow in their approach to maths teaching by developing subject knowledge, sharing ideas and having preconceptions challenged.

Teachers need opportunities to explore mathematics and the links between the core aims of the curriculum.  High-quality CPD sessions bring theory to life through active engagement and creative activities. They challenge fixed, unproductive ideas and draw the strands of a more invigorated thought process together.  In order for teachers to develop the confidence to deliver a mastery curriculum we need to empower them to take risks in the classroom.

A central tenet of the mastery approach is the importance of a growth mindset coupled with a positive attitude to learning. This applies to teachers and children equally. Only when the obstacles of lack of subject knowledge, outmoded pedagogy and fear have been overcome can we start to really think in terms of teaching for mastery.

Rebecca Hamburger has worked in education for 25 years, from Early Years to Key Stage 3. Before working as an independent consultant, she worked as a teaching and learning consultant for a London local authority. Her wide-ranging experience is in the delivery of high-quality CPD for schools and local authorities as well as supporting school improvement. Her passion is ensuring all children have the opportunity to learn maths in a creative, fun and practical way.

She currently works as a principle advisor for Chartwell Primary Maths supporting schools across the south east of England. She also works in ITT as well as being an LLG and Chair of Governors for a local school. She works with senior leaders, teachers, subject leaders, teaching assistants, parents and governors to develop positive mathematical experiences which engage all children.

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