All we want is .....

More than any other aspect the most common request from teachers is one of resources and teaching materials. This can be frustrating if you hold the opinion that resources alone are not the answer to effect the change we hope to achieve in the current evolution of maths education. However often the provision of a teaching idea in the form of an activity, problem or series of questions can allow a teacher to explore a new strategy for learning which they may not have done.

So the focus for sharing of resources and teaching materials could be to act as a catalyst to encourage colleagues to try new and occassionally innovative methods of teaching in a bid to generate greater reflection and collaboration amongst the region's professionals. We very much hope that teachers are inspired to tell us how new strategies fare in the classroom (good and bad) and share resources of their own. SYMH will be most effective if it can act as a conduit to collaboration across the region as well as providing access to new ideas from across the country.


Teaching for mastery

With respect to teaching for mastery we hope the focus of sharing ideas and materials will, over time increasingly shift to incorporating elements of teaching for mastery principles and pedagogy. One of the most impactful strategies is collaboratively planning and in all work groups there are oppotunities available for colleagues to participate with other teachesr from other schools.


Collaborative planning, where do we start?

Different methods being suggested for departments or groups of colleagues to try include;

  • Card sort of increasingly complex questions
  • "S-plan" of small step development
    • Taking a "big idea" and exploring connections


Increasingly complex questions/concepts

This strategy for professsional development collaborative discussion involves choosing a topic area within the curriculum (for example area of simple shapes) and presenting staff with a mixture of cards each with different questions that may be typically asked of learners within that topic. Staff are asked to arrange the cards in such a way so that they represent a development of learning from the fundamental skills to the more complex. Staff are then asked to consider the learning journey and in particular the conceptual development as well as the procedural development the learners undertake from moving from the simpest question to the most complex.

The ensuing discussions revolve around how we as teachers can guide rather than instruct learners along this "journey", with particular focus on small but clear steps of progression. Once one topic has been addressed teachers can then be asked to create their own sets of cards for a new topic, which adds a further element to the process.

Exemplar sort cards

Addition : these are an example of cards that illustrate concepts

Areas of triangles : these are an example of cards that illustrate questions

Once a group of colleagues has done this a few times, it can be enough to start introducing just challenging questions and ask them to consider, What do learners need to get to this point where they are able to attempt this type of question? This can form the basis of the S-plan style of collaborative discussion.



This method addresses a theme - often a national curriculum statement and aims to strip it down into smaller steps by which teachers can refelect on the strategies to move learners along the "learning journey" of these small steps. Once the steps have been identified teachers can focus on how best learners can master the conceptual & procedural skills and knowledge of each one in turn.

If colleagues which to save time on identifying these steps they may wish to use the resource created by GLOW Maths Hub (which also includes some White Rose Maths Hub material) namely MathsNAV (a Sat Nav for Maths!) By selecting an appropriate topic there are suggested smaller steps that could be placed on the S-plan NB these are suggested steps not pre-scribed

The journey may start with a "hook" and end with a "deeper element" or "problem solving" aspect. A collaborative planning group may also reflect on the prior learning required for learners and focus on these end points as mathematical rich activities for encouraging dialogue with students.


Some schools are preparing for this sort of collaboration by focusing on finding/creating these quality final challenging questions, which can then be shared and discussed.

Sharing questions might help because

  • Questions are a resource that every teacher needs, but teachers can use them in a way that fits with the way they teach. Sharing whole lessons and teaching approaches can give the impression that experienced and successful teachers, who know their classes best and have their own style, are being told what to do.

  • They help teachers see all the possible ways that students need to be able to think about the topic, and make them reflect on what the key ideas are and best to use explanations and examples to build a deep understanding of the topic.

  • They free up teacher time from creating or finding the questions (when this work has already been done by others), and gives them time to concentrate on how to structure a unit of work into small steps that give students the understanding and confidence to tackle harder problems. ​


Developing a big idea

This involves a much wider discussion about the curriculum as "big" ideas often permeate across a number of traditional topics. Proportion and the concept of multiplication is one example that can be considered. The professional dialogue may begin with considering which aspects or topics in maths this big idea contributes to. Questions that may be considered are; Does the big idea or concept reveal itself explicitly? How is the concept developed over time as learners meet the different topic areas?  What is the focus of learning?

Often the discussions reveal a possible shift in emphasis of the focus of learning in topics linked by a "big idea" from the individual procedures of any one topic towards the conceptual development of the wider understanding which in turn lead to learners making links across the curriculum.

For an example of how a concept may provoke discussion in this way : see Psychobabble blog 1




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