Five Big Ideas in Teaching for Mastery

The Five Big Ideas, used to develop Mastery Specialists, that underpin teaching for mastery

A central component in the NCETM/Maths Hubs programmes to develop Mastery Specialists has been discussion of Five Big Ideas, drawn from research evidence, underpinning teaching for mastery. The diagram below is used to help bind these ideas together.

A true understanding of these ideas will probably come about only after discussion with other teachers and by exploring how the ideas are reflected in day-to-day maths teaching, but here’s a flavour of what lies behind them:

Coherence

Lessons are broken down into small connected 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

Representations used in lessons expose the mathematical structure being taught, the aim being that students can do the maths without recourse to the representation

Mathematical Thinking

If taught ideas are to be understood deeply, they must not merely be passively received but must be worked on by the student: thought about, reasoned with and discussed with others

Fluency

Quick and efficient recall of facts and procedures and the flexibility to move between different contexts and representations of mathematics

Variation

Variation is twofold. It is firstly about how the teacher represents the concept being taught, often in more than one way, to draw attention to critical aspects, and to develop deep and holistic understanding. It is also about the sequencing of the episodes, activities and exercises used within a lesson and follow up practice, paying attention to what is kept the same and what changes, to connect the mathematics and draw attention to mathematical relationships and structure.

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