Maths: finding the fix to our problems

Maths: finding the fix to our problems

 We are not good at Maths in this country.

In the latest PISA results (2012), England ranked 24th in the maths tables. This equates to a three year achievement lag between the performance of our 15 year olds and those at the top of the performance table - in Shanghai.

But if you look at the performance of our 16-19 year olds, the picture is even worse. The latest figures from the OECD indicate that we are second to last in numeracy.

Ministers are keen to compare our students' performance with the best in the world, so it's easy to see why schools minister, Nick Gibb MP, is attaching such importance to maths teaching.

Gibb looks to the east for inspiration. Specifically, 'Maths Teaching for Mastery', as practised in Shanghai, Singapore and South Korea. 

You can read Nick Gibb MP's full speech on the Government's maths reforms here, which he delivered on 27th March 2015,


"It delivers a meticulous approach to arithmetic, whole class teaching and focused 35 minute lessons. Frequent practice allows pupils to consolidate their understanding, and pupils are assisted through immediate and tailored in-class questioning and scaffolding techniques. Homework is frequent and simply and quickly marked."

by Nick Gibb

So how do teachers find out more about this?

Gibb references Professor Dan Willingham's 2009 book Why don't students like school?

In it, Willingham explains how teaching can be better tailored to pupils' learning habits by changing schooling into an activity rather than a chore. 


Since 2014, Maths Hubs in England have been trialing Singapore textbooks. These provide a coherent, structured programme, designed to benefit pupils, teachers and parents.

You can also visit the National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics for more information, which provides a number of case studies dedicated to unpicking teaching for mastery.


Mathematics Mastery works with schools in the UK to help transform mathematics education. Its website offers a range of free classroom resources.

Using Mastery in Mathematics explains the principles of the mastery approach: a teaching methodology that builds children's conceptual understanding, language and communication and enables them to apply their understanding to unfamiliar situations to problem solve effectively. The site also offers planning support with study programmes based on a mastery curriculum.

Part of the Textbook Project, the Primary Maths Series, Maths No Problem! is founded on the international research of Piaget, Dienes, Bruner, Skemp and Vygotsky and has been tested and refined over the last 30 years in Singapore - earning Singapore the reputation of the 'laboratory of maths teaching'.

The Evaluation of the Textbook Project reveals significant indications that the project has had a positive impact on the teaching of mathematics in Year One classes, with 93% of teachers stating the approach had a positive effect on their teaching. Well worth a read!

The Best Evidence Encyclopedia is a free website, funded by the United States’ Department of Education. It provides educators and researchers with useful information about the strength of the evidence supporting a variety of subjects and is suitable for all pupils up to Year 11.

A beginner's guide to Professor John Hattie
Key sources in education research

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Comments 1

Steffen Carter (website) on Tuesday, 14 May 2019 07:18

Nice post. This content helps us to find mathematical problems & fix them. Thank you for sharing.

Nice post. This content helps us to find mathematical problems & fix them. Thank you for sharing.
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