What maths means at St Thomas…

Maths gives us the ability to reason. It allows us to see order in the world. It is a language that uses symbols to bring meaning to the universe – knowledge, study, learning.


Mathematics is not about numbers, equations, computations, or algorithms: it is about understanding.

-William Paul Thurston, Mathematician.


Maths at St Thomas...

Our aim when teaching mathematics is to ensure that the children are fully equipped with a variety of strategies and the ability to apply their learning to different situations, have the ability to think for themselves and develop confidence in using mathematical vocabulary.

Throughout the year the children work on their fluency with number concepts (such as place value, mental and written calculation strategies), shape, space, measurement and data handling. Problem solving and reasoning are also used to encourage children to bring together their different mathematical skills.

Links between maths and other areas of the curriculum, including topic areas, are made as often as possible to contextualise the maths that the children are learning – to make it as meaningful as possible. In order to promote these links further, maths is taught in mixed ability class based groups to allow for flexibility in teaching cross curricular sessions.

We follow a Mastery approach to the teaching of maths at St Thomas’. This means that all the children are taught the same concept together and those that grasp the concept quickly go on to deepen their understanding and application whilst additional support is given to those children who take a little longer to grasp the learning focus. Each maths concept is taught for fluency using as many varied approaches as possible to help embed the children’s conceptual understanding. This is then applied through reasoning and problem solving. It is important that the children are able to really understand the concepts behind the maths that they do and to be able to explain articulately what they are doing.

Our staff and children really enjoy this new approach – maths IS fun.

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At St. Thomas’s, we teach for mastery of mathematics, following the principles of the five big ideas in teaching for mastery.


Embedded in children’s mathematical learning, we aim to create deep and meaningful understanding of mathematical concepts that children are able to use and apply throughout all phases of their learning journey, both at St. Thomas’ and beyond.


Utilising the Five Big Ideas in teaching for mastery, children are given opportunities to develop their fluency of a concept, reason mathematically using relevant language and apply their mathematical thinking to problem solving opportunities that challenge the thinking of all learners.


The teaching for mastery approach in mathematics encourages children to develop a deep, conceptual understanding of taught concepts through a carefully planned and sequenced series of lessons that journey through a concept, one small step at a time.


Each lesson will include elements of relevant mathematical representation and structure, fluency, variation and mathematical thinking. This cohesion enables our learners to go deeper in their understanding of the taught mathematical concept within the parameters of their Curriculum, rather than accelerating learning at a superficial level.


Teaching for mastery in mathematics ensures there is challenge for all learners. In every lesson at St. Thomas’ there are opportunities to Rediscover and Go Deeper offered to all learners. We encourage children to reflect on their learning each lesson: identifying their own successes and next steps.

Our marking policy encourages children to self-mark their learning in maths, allowing them to engage with their learning and for any misconceptions to be identified, discussed and dealt with almost immediately. The children at St. Thomas’ understand the value of mistake making in mathematics and view it as a learning opportunity.


High quality teaching for Mastery resources are used by teachers in the planning and development of their lessons including Power Maths and resources from the White Rose. There are weekly CPD opportunities for staff centred on teaching for mastery in mathematics lead by a Mastery Specialist Teacher.


At St. Thomas of Canterbury School, maths is a subject that is enjoyed by pupils and teachers alike. We encourage our S=P+A+C+E principles of positive attitudes, confidence, perseverance and effort in the learning of all mathematical learners and view our carefully designed curriculum in maths as building blocks of a child’s conceptual understanding.



Following a teaching for mastery approach in both our curriculum design and lesson structure enables teachers to take small, achievable steps through a mathematical concept, teaching whole class and allowing for all learners to access challenge and depth in their understanding.


The structure and lesson design allow teachers to develop the necessary small, conceptual steps in mastery. Teachers select their examples carefully to highlight the important conceptual ideas and tasks are chosen to provide pupils with intelligent practice. Elements of fluency, reasoning and problem solving are present in every maths lesson and all learners are exposed to all three strands of thinking and challenge.


The representations and structures used to demonstrate and promote understanding of a concept are selected by the teachers. The representations used to develop understanding of a concept may be concrete (manipulatives), pictorial or even abstract (the use of numerals etc.).  It is expected that manipulatives, where a relevant representation of the taught mathematics, will be used by all learners to not only support understanding but also to promote depth of thinking and independence.


At St. Thomas of Canterbury, teachers will plan their maths lessons to include elements of Rediscover, collaborative challenge, independent practice and opportunities for Going Deeper. There might be rediscovery of a particular strategy or concept covered in the previous lesson to ensure every learner feels ready to progress, or it could be rediscovery of mathematics taught in a previous year to encourage and enable learners to make mathematical connections and hence deepen their understanding.


This rediscover element of the teaching of mathematics at St. Thomas’ also informs the interventions and support provided; use of the ready to progress materials ensure that children are fully ready to progress in terms of their mathematical thinking and understanding.


Collaborative challenge refers to discussion and opportunities for children to work with their learning partner. We encourage all children to discuss their mathematical thinking using relevant and vocabulary and have high expectations of the mathematical language they use. This is modelled by the teacher and children have the opportunities to develop this when working with their peers.


Throughout our school, the impact of our mastery curriculum should be evident in the attitudes, learning and application of mathematics by our children.


Rediscovery of concepts and facts will enable children to develop their fluency and reasoning skills, enabling them to tackle problem solving in the context of their maths lessons and beyond. The development of mathematical journaling as a skill will not only reinforce taught concepts and encourage ‘life-long learning’ but will also be beneficial as a skill and a strategy as the children move through their education.


The rich and varied representations and structures used by teachers to draw out the conceptual learning of the mathematics should be reflected in the children’s learning and be evident in their classroom, books and school environment. These taught and learnt structures will encourage children to make broad mathematical connections and begin to make generalisations that may contribute to calculations strategies in their adult lives.


Teacher’s subject knowledge of mathematical concepts will provide opportunities for all children to access depth in their mathematical exploration and learning.


The analogy of ‘building a wall’ is often used to discuss the teaching and learning of mathematics in the context of mastery. Each year group’s curriculum represents a layer of bricks, the mathematical connections the cement between them. EYFS is that first layer, year one the next and so on and so forth. Each year, the bricks of knowledge and conceptual understanding are laid atop the last. The aim of a mastery curriculum is not to build the tallest wall imaginable, but to build a solid wall, with firm foundations laid ready for the next layer of bricks to be built upon. Occasionally, there may be some cement missing, or damage to a brick which we must address by rediscovering concepts and deepening understanding of the learning that will enable children to progress, for their wall of learning to be broad and sturdy.


Throughout children’s further education (and for the rest of their lives) they will continue to build their wall of mathematical learning, on the first seven layers that will be a firm foundation, held together by those rich mathematical connections and concepts they first learnt at St. Thomas of Canterbury Catholic Primary School.