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How do I get a picture of the teaching and learning in my school?

Created on 20 May 2010 by ncetm_administrator
Updated on 08 April 2013 by ncetm_administrator


How do I get a picture of the curriculum in action?

This strand focuses on how you can find out about the learning experience of children in your school in mathematics.

In this strand you will:

  • consider the different ways you can monitor learning.
  • reflect on the advantages and disadvantages of each
  • investigate how you can find out how policy impacts on practice.

When you have completed this strand you will:

  • know about the tools available to you, to enable you to find out about mathematics learning in your school
  • be able to use those tools to monitor learning and achievement in your school
  • understand the strengths and limitations of the tools you are using.

It is significant that there is an expectation that the leadership of schools is now shared with subject leaders, who are now expected to be pro-active and informed leaders of their subject.

The first stage of subject leadership is developing an awareness of the current situation in your school. Information about the way children learn and how successful this is, will help you to make plans to develop the mathematics learning further. There are a range of leadership tools and sources that you can use to help you find out how effectively mathematics is learned in your school. There will also be a number of factors that you will need to think about when you begin to make decisions about how to develop the teaching and learning of mathematics in your school.

Features of effective subject leadership from the Excellence in Mathematics Leadership (EiML) microsite offers a helpful summary of these aspects of finding out about your school.

However, there are advantages and disadvantages of each form of monitoring. The following sections will consider these.
Lesson Observation

There are two facets to observing a lesson:
The first is about reflecting on the teaching, and considering how this can be developed further. This role may or may not fall to the subject leader. In some schools the Senior Leadership Team takes responsibility for this.

Now consider this process of evaluation in the light of the following statements.
Place the following statements into the part of the table below where you think they should be.

  • be the only way teaching and learning is judged
  • make teachers despondent if used inappropriately
  • help a leader offer focussed suggestions about how to improve the learning experience for mathematics
  • be shared with teachers as the only form of feedback
  • be used with caution
  • give selected teachers direction
  • be best utilised as a self reflection document
This process can... This process might... This process should not...

Watch From Good to Outstanding - Halima Hussain. This video is part of the Teachers TV series From Good to Outstanding.
Brampton Primary School in east London rates teacher Halima Hussain's lessons as "good", but can they become "outstanding" in just three weeks?
Top school inspector Clare Gillies assesses Halima's Year 4 lesson on human growth and bone size, highlighting key areas for improvement. Halima also receives CPD advice from voice and communications coach Ulrika Schulte-Baukloh and primary science expert John Stringer.
She then has just three weeks back in the classroom to turn their advice into action before the inspector returns to observe a second lesson and deliver her final verdict - but will it be "outstanding"?

Use your Personal Learning Space to record four strategies from Halima's lesson that you could employ in your own teaching, and offer to your colleagues to help develop their teaching further.

The second aspect of lesson observation is about reflecting on the children’s learning. Arguably this needs to be the main focus of subject leader observation. The recognition of learning is a developing skill for all teachers, and indeed all learners. There are clear links with Assessment for Learning and Assessing Pupil Progress as well as significant implications for planning.

Identify a member of your staff team to work with in partnership.
Plan a lesson together for one of your classes.
Decide on four children that you will observe to identify aspects of using and applying mathematics that children demonstrate in what they say or do during the lesson.
One of you should deliver the lesson whilst the other observes the identified children.
Reflect on your findings together.
Identify the implications for the next lesson.

Learning Theories gives a good summary of some of the major theories about learning.
You may wish to read them and then reflect again on your shared teaching and observing experience and the notes you made with your colleague. Identify examples from the children’s learning that will illustrate any of these theories.
This writing frame may support your reflection.

There has long been a view amongst educators that children need to develop as independent, enthusiastic and confident learners. This has become more explicit in the national expectations for teaching and learning in mathematics, with a strong and strengthening emphasis on children being able to use and apply their mathematical skills and knowledge.

This extract from an information sheet produced by Unesco gives a summary of the international view of the elements of successful learning.

Make a note in your Personal Learning Space about the similarities and differences between this international view, and the view in your own school.  It may be helpful to use part of a staff meeting to collect views from your colleagues. This can be the first step towards the development of a policy for teaching and learning, either as a generic document or as a stand-alone policy for mathematics.

Pupil interviews
You make like to refer to the Pupil Voice in Module 3.

A pupil interview can be as simple as asking children to explain their thinking when they are responding to ‘test type’ questions (whether they got the answers right or wrong!). As subject leader you may wish to interview a sample of children across the school, either on your own or alongside the class teachers. You will need to be aware of the kinds of questions you or your colleagues are asking the children in order give them the opportunity to articulate their thinking.

In an article Rich discussions by 7- and 8-year olds, Carol Kohlfield describes a conversation she has with a group of children about calculation.


  • how much of the interview do you think was planned in advance?
  • what were the key questions in the discussion that helped Carol understand the children’s thinking?
  • what would you record about the children’s understanding?
  • what do they need to do next?

Record your thoughts in your Personal Learning Space.

The Leicestershire Mathematics Team have prepared some materials to support pupil interviews. The maths team have identified some key questions to consider, and are included here, along with a few more.

Work with one colleague, your senior leadership team, or the whole staff. Consider these statements.
Which do you think are most important in supporting the development of children’s mathematical understanding?

Pupil interviews have in important role to play in determining not only an overview of mathematical learning in the school, but also assessment for learning and planning.

The full document by the Leicestershire Numeracy Team, Monitoring through Pupil Interviews, is available to download. There are suggestions for questions for each year group.

Book Scrutiny

It is important that teachers keep an ‘evidence trail’ of what children write down in their mathematics books.

Thinking about mathematics
Try the Chocolate bars activity from NRICH: find a colleague to work with if you can. Record anything you need to on paper if it helps you to solve the problem.

Reflect on the mathematical skills and knowledge you used while you were engaged with the problem. Discuss these with your colleague.

Record a list of all the skills you used to help you solve this problem in your Personal Learning Space.

Now reflect on the recordings you made while you were working on this problem:

  • is there evidence of each of the skills you used in your written work?
  • which skills can you see evidence of?
  • which skills are not evident?
  • did you and your colleague record the same things?

Why would anyone want to do that? is an article by Mike Askew, about a conversation he had with some children about mathematics.

Download the latest version of Adobe Flash to listen to this resource.

What are the implications of your experiences with the NRICH problem, and reading Mike Askew's article for what you might be looking for in a book scrutiny? Make a note in your Personal Learning Space.

Clarify your thinking about book scrutinies by organising these statements/ideas from most useful to least useful in terms of your role as leader of mathematical learning in the school.

What can a book scrutiny tell me about mathematical learning?

Record your conclusions on how to carry out book scrutinies in your Maths Subject Leader file.

Learning Walk

Much can be gleaned about how mathematics is taught and learned by looking at the way the subject is presented in classroom, and how consistent the environment is across your school.
It may be appropriate to focus on three or four aspects of learning as you look around the school.

The Primary Strategy produced some materials to support subject leaders and senior leaders who are engaging in a learning walk in their school.

This is a generic document, intended to focus on general aspects of the learning environment.

Are there some aspects of this document that could be helpful?
Make a note of which aspect of this document would help you find out more about mathematics learning in your school.

If possible, use part of a staff meeting or planning meeting to gather ideas with colleagues about what makes an exciting mathematical environment for children. If you prefer, use the following headings to support your discussion.
Aim to reach an agreement about what the statements mean to you, which you think are most important and what might be visible in the classroom that would support children’s learning.  

  • Permanent 'tools' that the children can see clearly and/or reach - eg, number lines
  • Mathematical language linked with the current topic
  • Semi-permanent displays in the classroom celebrating children's learning
  • Temporary displays to support children's current learning
  • Intriguing mathematical problems/puzzles to capture their mathematical imagination
  • Interesting mathematical facts for the children to enjoy

Key Elements: Learning Environment and Resources focuses on the learning environment and gives some examples oflearning walls and displays that can stimulate mathematical thinking.





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