Sandbach Primary Academy follows a “teaching for depth” approach to mathematics, which is sometimes termed mastery in other published guidance or commercial products. This approach enables all children to master the mathematics curriculum and draws inspiration from a range of sources. It draws heavily upon research conducted by the EEF (Education Endowment Fund) and their recommendations.


The intention is to build long lasting learning through progressive acquisition of knowledge and skills. This helps our children to know and remember more through both well timed repetition and carefully planned tasks to introduce new learning. Children are also taught through retrieval practice as part of our approach.

We believe that all children can learn mathematics with hard work, effort and good, supportive teaching and we aim to give children the mathematical experiences which show them first-hand the uses of mathematics in everyday life and through applying mathematical understanding to other curriculum subjects, children are shown the importance mathematics plays in our everyday lives. Differentiation by task or setting has not traditionally led to better outcomes for lower attaining pupils. All year cohorts of children are usually taught in mixed ability classes, where scaffolding, timely intervention and teachers and other adults working directly with those who are struggling to grasp a concept provide more effective differentiation.

Design and Implementation

Whilst teaching the National Curriculum, we do not follow a particular scheme of work in terms of materials and rate of coverage. The NCETM spine documents under-pin our pedagogical approach and offer guidance so that teachers can plan and write lessons that meet the needs of each class. Small steps for both conceptual and procedural understanding are planned for, giving due consideration to common misconceptions that are likely to occur.

As with any guidance, it leaves the teachers free to extend the time period over which a topic is taught should they feel that a depth of understanding has not been achieved. However, we expect all topics within the National Curriculum to have been covered to some degree over the year. Gaps will be identified in a timely manner by class teachers so that they can be addressed through same day intervention, or even by the next teacher.

Children use concrete, pictorial and abstract models for each topic as appropriate to the learning context. Research conducted by the EEF underpins our expectation that both manipulatives and representations will be used in all year groups and across all ability groups to support learning before procedural methods are used. This will allow children to select from a range of strategies for both efficiency and to support success.

Procedural methods for calculation are taught alongside mental methods for fluency and variation.  Children will be expected to apply this learning within a range of contexts rather than completing extended procedural practice. Fluency does not equate to speed but to efficient choice of strategy which may well increase speed, particularly when trying to recall times tables.

Lesson structure

At the beginning of a lesson, teachers bridge back to prior learning through maths problems which we call ’connections and patterns’ and during this, children will explore different patterns and connections within maths which then can be applied to their previous and new learning that day.

During the lesson, the class explores a ‘hook’ problem which encourages children to be inquisitive and unpick the learning for that lesson. This ‘hook’ will then be ‘spun’ so that the children have different examples to develop and deepen the small learning step to depth. Through this the children have the opportunity to learn from each other and challenge their learning through showing and discussing these questions with each other, encouraging the children to explain and reason their thoughts and ideas.

The children will then complete an independent task where they will answer similar questions to the ‘hook’ which again are then spun so that the children can demonstrate their understanding of what has been taught. Teachers will work with children that they have acknowledged needs more support or teaching. If children complete this task then some are encouraged to complete a problem of greater difficulty and this is where the question may contain either contain more complex steps, combine more than one aspect of maths, a range of starting points, may be asked to find all the possibilities with constraints or be asked to use a higher level of reasoning.

The plenary of the maths lesson may focus on different aspects, some days it may be focused on addressing misconceptions that have cropped up in the lesson and this encourages positive attitudes so that our children can see that unpicking mistakes are valuable for learning to gain a deeper understanding of their learning. The plenary is also an opportunity to individually, with peers or with the teacher to reflect and assess their learning and think about next steps and targets.

There are times that this lessons structure may not fit the learning taking place because children are investigating, playing mathematical games or doing a more practical based activity.

Children will be given routine arithmetic questions on a range of topics which will then be unpicked and discussed as a class on what is the most effective and efficient way of solving this problem and the main aim of this is so that the children can revisit previous learning which leads to a better understanding and developing fluency. However, this does not take the place of quality teaching in the topic planned for.

Teacher will then offer interventions, sometimes same day other times prior to the lesson taught or alongside the topic planned and this is to ensure that gaps and misconceptions are addressed before moving on to a different topic.

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Crewe Road, Sandbach, CW11 4NS
01270 918922