Maths Mastery is the aim to improve students' understanding, enjoyment and attainment in mathematics. As relief teachers, even though we may only be with a set of students for one day, we can still achieve this and make a difference in the way students learn mathematics.

Whether you are a seasoned maths lead or a versatile relief teacher, here are our top tips to ensure you are able to use Maths Mastery as a fast and effective approach in your lessons.


Top Tip #1 – Set expectations

Maths Mastery isn’t an approach that expects students to all be working at the exact same level from day 1 in Year 5. For it to be truly effective, the Maths Mastery method should be taught from Year 1 under the philosophy that they will work together and conduct supportive peer-to-peer interactions. It ensures that by the time the students make it to Year 6, after building upon their skills year after year, they will be working at the expected level with minimal disparity between their abilities.

This can be difficult as a relief teacher, so be sure to set the expectations for how your maths lesson will run at the beginning of the learning session. This way the students are prepared and can make the most out of the teaching and learning.


Top Tip #2 – Make the most of maths equipment and materials

The use of visual and tactile materials is very important in helping students learn, as it allows them to utilise a different part of their brain. So get out the multi-link cubes, dienes or digit cards and enable the students to probe and play with the equipment. Challenge them to test their thinking and explore strategies for solving problems using the materials. Studies show that students who first learn a new mathematic concept with materials, are able to visualise and calculate in their heads faster, helping them to grasp new concepts easily and efficiently.

If you allow your students to learn through ‘play, it’s guaranteed that the results will be immense.


Top Tip #3 – Break up the teaching and learning blocks

One whole hour of maths can be daunting for some students and they can switch off half-way through a lesson. That is why some schools have adopted two smaller maths lessons within one day, a method of teaching that is commonly used in Singapore and Shanghai. For instance, teach 30-40 minutes of maths earlier in the day, then set a 30-minute independent task for students to work on while you provide additional support to those children in need of one-on-one help. This way, you will be able to maximize your teaching effectiveness as a relief teacher, while also maintaining students’ interest in the subject matter.


Top Tip #4 – Mixed-ability groups

Encourage mixed-ability pair and group work as frequently as possible. We don’t realise until we start to observe and listen to students, how much children actually learn from their interactions with one another. Always promote as much student-led discussion between mixed-ability pairs and groups, and you will be surprised to see how much all parties gain from their collaboration (including you!).


Top Tip #5 – Extend higher-ability learners

The majority of teachers have been faced with a group of higher-ability students finishing all of their assigned work early and having to scramble to find them extra work to do. In cases like this, we tend to hand out a ‘time-filler’ task to keep them busy (or to stop the elongated whining!), but it in fact causes the skill gap between our students to widen.

It's important to find a way to keep these early finishers intellectually stimulated while adding to the learning process of the lower-ability students too. We can achieve this by determining a range of thought-provoking questions to follow up with; “Can you spot a pattern?” or  “Can you find another way to solve the same problem?” really makes the pupils challenge their minds and can lead to the emergence of new trains of thought. Asking them to explain their methods to a peer, also reinforces their learning.


Every student is unique in their own way in that it requires different parts of their brain to be stimulated in order for them to integrate the material that is being taught. A successful supply teacher will recognise this and experiment with various maths teaching methods to ensure that pupils learn at an equal pace regardless of their natural skill level! Try out these Maths Mastery tips for yourself next time you teach a maths lesson – the results will surprise you.


To equip you further for teaching maths successfully on supply, make sure you check out Emergency Maths, our brand new PD course on the Relief Teacher Association Institution, brought to you by Zebedee Friedman.


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