Thousands of primary schools in England are to be offered the chance to follow an Asian style of teaching maths. Image by DGLimages
According to the BBC, “The England government is providing £41m of funding to help interested schools to adopt this method, which is used in high performing places like Shanghai, Singapore and Hong Kong.
The money will be available to more than 8,000 primary schools in England.
This approach to maths is already used in some schools, but the cash means it can be taken up more widely.
The Department for Education says the mastery approach to maths teaching, as it is known, involves children being taught as a whole class and is supported by the use of high-quality textbooks.
Pupils are encouraged to physically represent mathematical concepts, so objects and pictures are used to demonstrate and visualise abstract ideas, alongside numbers and symbols.
There is a focus on whole-class interactive teaching at a brisk tempo, rather than teacher explanation followed by slower individual group practice, and textbooks, rather than worksheets, are used.
The mastery approach sees the whole class progressing together, with higher achievers being encouraged to deepen their understanding, rather than accelerating ahead of classmates.
Initially 700 teachers will be trained to support schools in maths mastery, which was first used in England in 2014.
So far 140 teachers from primary schools in England have been trained by the National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics to help schools adopt the approach.
The expansion will be led by maths hubs – 35 school-led centres of excellence in maths teaching.
Schools Minister Nick Gibb said: “We are seeing a renaissance in maths teaching in this country, with good ideas from around the world helping to enliven our classrooms.
“I am confident that the steps we are taking now will ensure young people are properly prepared for further study and the 21st Century workplace and that the too often heard phrase ‘can’t do maths’ is consigned to the past.”
Mr Gibb said the expansion of the maths mastery approach could only “add to the positive momentum”, with thousands more young people having access to specialist teachers and quality textbooks.
Charlie Stripp, director of the National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics, said the expansion of the programme was “wonderful news for maths education”.
“This will give significant new momentum to the existing work around teaching for mastery in primary schools,” he said.
“Contrary to some reports, teaching maths for mastery is not about rote learning and drilling, though it certainly does result in pupils knowing and being able to recall times tables and other key number facts, which represent an important foundation for learning and using maths.
“Teaching for mastery focuses on deep conceptual learning, developing secure foundations that pupils can build on throughout their education.”
Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: “Support for the more effective teaching of maths is always welcome, especially when it is not forced on schools.
“The success of such a programme will also depend on sufficient numbers of well trained and well engaged teachers to deliver it. The government must put far more effort into teacher recruitment and retention.”
International tests show that in places like Shanghai, Singapore and Hong Kong, the percentage of 15-year-olds who are functionally innumerate – which means unable to perform basic calculations – was more than 10 percentage points lower than in England.”