The Maths Mastery Approach at Little Gaddesden


“A place where all children can gain a conceptual understanding of Maths

through representation, variation, making connections

and continual review of current knowledge”

In 2016, Little Gaddesden introduced a teaching for mastery approach. Teaching for mastery at Little Gaddesden School is underpinned by the mind-set that every child can achieve. The rationale behind changing our approach to teaching mathematics lay within the research of Boaler (2015) and Skemp (1976); training in partnership with the NCETM Maths Hub as well as the 2014 National Curriculum which states:  

∙ The expectation is that most pupils will move through the programmes of study at broadly the same pace.  

∙ Pupils who grasp concepts rapidly should be challenged through being offered rich and sophisticated problems before any acceleration through new  content.  

∙ Those who are not sufficiently fluent with earlier material should consolidate  their understanding, including through additional practice, before moving on.


In response to our most recent OFSTED inspection it was decided that we should extend the sharing of leadership and outstanding teaching skills with other schools. As a school we embarked upon The MAST (Maths Specialist Teaching) postgraduate course  (2016-18) which was truly inspiring.  Our intent as Maths lead was to first develop a deeper understanding of the theories relating specifically to the learning of Maths.  We implemented Mason’s Mathematical Powers, particularly the skill to develop your own conjecture in Maths and convince yourself and others.  ‘Pupil Voice’ revealed that this led to a huge increase in children’s confidence and reasoning.

Staff and children at Little Gaddesden School  both fully appreciate representation in Maths and the need for a range of concrete, pictorial and abstract representations to be used, alongside one another to support conceptual understanding from Reception to Year 6 and beyond.

Key principles of our approach

Our teaching for mastery is underpinned by the NCETM’s 5 big ideas:


Our lessons are broken down into small steps that gradually unfold the concept, providing access for all children and leading to a generalisation of the concept and the ability to apply the concept to a range of contexts.

Representation and Structure

Moving between abstract, pictorial and concrete representations expose the mathematical structure being taught and allow pupils to develop a true conceptual understanding.

Mathematical Thinking

To help our pupils develop mastery and mathematical fluency, we believe pupils must be exposed to a range of reasoning and problem solving style questions every lesson alongside discussion with peers.


As a school we are moving towards a fluency focused approach in every lesson that encourages quick and efficient recall of facts and procedures and the flexibility to move between different contexts and representations in mathematics


A new and exciting focus in Maths is variation: conceptual and procedural.  Our teachers are implementing ‘intelligent practice’ into our question design by paying attention to what is kept the same and what changes, to connect the mathematics and draw attention to mathematical relationships and structure.

The Five Big Ideas were first published by the NCETM in 2017.

Progression in Mathematics

Mathematics at Little Gaddesden School

Little Gaddesden Calculation policy

Little Gaddesden EYFS Calculation policy

DfE Mathematics Curriculum