Mastery Maths in KS2

Around this time last year I started reading about the work of the Ark group and Mathematics Mastery. So it was that as I moved to KS2 in September, I set about leading my year team – and an adjoining one – on a mastery maths journey. We’ve not reached the end-point yet, but it seems to be a hot topic at the moment, and following on from Bruno Reddy’s great blog about how he’d tackled mastery maths at Secondary, I thought it would be worth sharing what we’d done in KS2.

My initial thinking was led by what I’d read about the Ark scheme, and then built on by what I read in Dan Willingham’s excellent “Why don’t students like school?” about how children learn. It was soon put into context by my early experience in KS2. Having moved from KS3 I had previously taught maths sets; now I would be teaching a mixed ability group at a very different level. In KS3 I had previously moved towards what I’d considered to be longer blocks of two or sometimes three weeks on a unit. That had worked quite well for the high ability groups, but it had become clear for others it had still been too much too fast. I hadn’t previously been dealing with the need to teach and learn tables, or introduce area, but it felt like this was a good way of getting it right!

As the new curriculum was on the horizon, it was a useful starting point, and seemed to fit rather well with the mastery approach anyway. I began by mapping out broad units, using a model based very loosely on the Mathematics Mastery secondary curriculum map. It has’t held fast all year, but it provided a perfectly good starting point.

Year 5 Mastery Overview draft

Year 5 Mastery Overview draft

It meant that the first half term of the academic year was spent almost exclusively on place value and addition/subtraction. Within that we drew in elements which related to those skills. So, it seemed a sensible time to tackle in aspects like calculating perimeter, or finding missing angles on a straight line. Interestingly, there are plenty of similarities between our plan and that of KSA, particularly in that first term. See also what it says about separating minimally-different concepts (such as area & perimeter!)

In the Spring term, we took the step of spending a whole half-term on fractions. I’ll be honest, I was nervous about it. It’s never been my favourite area to teach, and rarely is it students favourite area to study. However, the system seems to have paid off. Knowing that we had weeks to spend on it meant that we weren’t afraid to take the time to secure the basics before launching into the higher level skills suitable to their age. And we weren’t abandoning it for another topic just as they were getting into things.

thinkingblocksWhat’s more, I drew on the things I’d seen of the Singapore bar method to really secure understanding of fractional calculations. We’d been using in school as a general problem-solving tool, but it seems that for fractions this approach really comes into its own. It allowed the children clearly to visualise the problems we were tackling, and to secure a much clearer understanding of why mathematical approaches worked. I cannot speak highly enough of the bar model in the context of mastery!

We haven’t been working on this approach for anything like as long as Bruno Reddy’s school, but initial results look positive. We’ve trialled the approach in Years 4 and 5 and seen a substantial improvement in ability to master the key methods, as well as spending more time to drive a focus on number bonds and tables. It seems that the approach will likely be even more successful in data terms once the new KS2 tests begin with the additional arithmetic paper!

Although it’s early days for us, some of the most significant evidence of success has come from the teams teaching the curriculum. Not all were sold on the idea at the beginning, but it has garnered the support and enthusiasm of those involved because it’s working! You can see it in the progress made by groups who traditionally do well, but perhaps more importantly in the successes of those learners who might traditionally have found making progress more challenging!

There’s still plenty to iron out and tweaks to be made over the coming years as different cohorts come up with different experiences. I still don’t think I’ve spent enough time and effort on securing number bond and tables knowledge – despite finding myself in every week’s work saying at some point “Now, can you see why it helps to know your tables?”. I still think we can do more to incorporate the important stages of concrete and representational development before the abstract. It’s not perfect yet.

But I can no longer imagine teaching any other way. Five years ago I was arguing that we needed to move away from week-long planning for maths; now I’d argue that anything less than six weeks is probably doing our students a disservice!

Ask me next summer how it’s paying off in terms of KS2 results!


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25 thoughts on “Mastery Maths in KS2

  1. primaryblogger1 3 April 2014 at 6:48 am Reply

    Reblogged this on Primary Blogging.

  2. teachingbattleground 6 April 2014 at 6:33 pm Reply

    Reblogged this on The Echo Chamber.

  3. […] Bruno Reddyand Michael Tidd have written about their experiences in designing a mastery maths curriculum. It seems that there […]

  4. […] Reddy and Michael Tidd have written about their experiences in designing a mastery maths curriculum. It seems that there […]

  5. srcav 4 May 2014 at 10:23 pm Reply

    Excellent post, really interesting and I look forward to reading about how this progresses. I’ve written about mastery before and the more I read the more inclined I am to sway towards it.

  6. Kerenza 5 May 2014 at 10:54 am Reply

    Great blog, and fantastic new curriculum materials…thanks so much for sharing.
    Very interested in this method for maths teaching…don’t suppose you have any Y3 materials that I could look at? @krenz77 on twitter

  7. […] I have written more about this mastery approach for English and also for KS2 Maths. […]

  8. […] Mastery Maths in KS2 via Michael Tidd […]

  9. […] such circumstances. For example, the Rising Stars new curriculum assessment materials would fit the mastery approach to Maths and provide a simple snapshot of attainment for teachers and students directly linked to […]

  10. MissRStF 11 August 2014 at 10:16 am Reply

    Hi there!

    My school are adopting the mastery approach too, after hearing you speak at a conference!
    I am in Year 4 and I was wondering if there was anything in particular you could recommend we use to help us in taking on this! Thank you!

  11. […] about the merits of a mastery approach that spends longer amounts of time on fewer things in both maths and English. I’ve never been a fan of the block-based approach that was put forward in the […]

  12. Abigail Greig 16 January 2015 at 12:47 pm Reply

    Ours is a stand alone Junior School. I have been looking into the Ark approach to Maths Mastery and have contacted them to find out if Junior Schools can use this system. I understand from them that this approach needs to start with Y1 (or possibly Reception) and builds on the children’s experiences as they move up the school. If the children we receive in Y3 have not had the Maths Mastery experience, is there any sense in us persuing the idea of using it for KS2?

    • Michael Tidd 16 January 2015 at 12:54 pm Reply

      I would definitely say so – although you’re right that if they’ve not had the grounding in KS1 they might not be ready for the same sort of level of work that they might otherwise be, I still think that the principles of the approach hold true. We started it in our middle school phase in Y4 and Y5 last year with good results.

      • Abigail Greig 16 January 2015 at 1:46 pm Reply

        Thank you, Michael. When I phoned Maths Mastery, they said they had only prepared materials up to Y3 and would be adding more as this year group moved up to Y4 next year. Did you use a produced scheme/textbooks for your Y4 and Y5 and if so, where were these materials from?

        • Michael Tidd 16 January 2015 at 2:11 pm

          No, we used a range of resources from previous work, and from some of the secondary MEP resources ( it was the principle of the process that was more important to me rather than the materials themselves.

  13. Abigail Greig 29 January 2015 at 9:12 am Reply

    Hi Michael. Did you also take on the 6-part lesson approach (do now, new learning, talk task, develop learning, independent task, plenary) that MM advocate (along with singing/chanting to link the parts together) or are you seeing Maths Mastery as simply spending longer on and going deeper with concepts (depth, not breadth)?

  14. Michael Tidd 29 January 2015 at 5:28 pm Reply

    I never have – and never will – follow any prescribed lesson structure. I’m just not that sort of teacher.
    I’m all in favour of chanting things that need to be learned though, or singing if that works

  15. […] Around this time last year I started reading about the work of the Ark group and Mathematics Mastery. So it was that as I moved to KS2 in September, I set about leading my year team – and an adjoin…  […]

  16. Rachel 27 April 2015 at 8:21 pm Reply

    A fantastic article, and apologies if I have missed a posting on this very question, but do you have (or plan to) publish your yearly overviews anywhere?

  17. Mastery | Pearltrees 17 May 2015 at 8:42 pm Reply

    […] Mastery Maths in KS2 | Ramblings of a Teacher. Around this time last year I started reading about the work of the Ark group and Mathematics Mastery. […]

  18. Jane Edmunds 11 October 2015 at 3:19 pm Reply

    Thank-you for this very helpful article. It is really useful having the Year 5 example. Do you have maps for the other primary years that you could share?

  19. […] wrote back in April 2014 about how I was using a blocked approach to teaching mathematics, and plenty of people have asked […]

  20. Rachel 19 May 2017 at 10:00 am Reply

    I found this a very interesting read. I am interested in sharing this model with within the academy I work with, as all the schools within this academy need to address maths. It is really useful having the Year 5 example. Do you have the maps for the other primary year groups? I am doing a lot of research around this approach and may need to pick your brain further.

    • Michael Tidd 19 May 2017 at 10:11 am Reply

      Hello Rachel,
      I would say that the work I had done has been far superseded by the excellent work of the White Rose Maths Hub who have taken the principle and run much further with it. They have detailed breakdowns of objectives, and assessments, etc. to accompany it. You can sign up to access them here:

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