Maths mastery adds up for schoolchildren

Emily Hudsmith, head of maths at Charter Academy in Southsea, with pupil Billy-Lee Graham, 12, doing some Maths Mastery.  Picture: Paul Jacobs (121792-1)
Emily Hudsmith, head of maths at Charter Academy in Southsea, with pupil Billy-Lee Graham, 12, doing some Maths Mastery. Picture: Paul Jacobs (121792-1)
Dr John Steadman, archivist of Portsmouth History Centre based at Portsmouth Central Library     Picture:  Malcolm Wells

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Maths is for everyone at a school that teaches the subject in such great depth it is a part of everyone’s DNA.

The ‘maths mastery’ curriculum at Charter Academy in Southsea is so successful even the most reluctant students are coming round to the idea that algebra is ‘cool’.

It is modelled on the Singapore method which studies fewer topics in much more depth – to ‘master’ the fundamentals – which sees more than 80 per cent of 15-year-olds achieve the equivalent of a GCSE grade C.

Last year Charter piloted the curriculum, which is now under consideration by the UK’s leading exam board AQA. This year it has been rolled out to 100 schools nationwide.

Among Charter’s current first year students, 20 per cent who joined in September with maths abilities of a seven-year-old or less are now at their expected standard or better.

One example is Billy-Lee Graham, 12, who has improved by four years in just two terms.

He says: ‘When I first came up to Charter I didn’t know anything in maths and I didn’t like it at all.

‘Now I find it really fun because I’m not struggling all the time.

‘When you learn the basics in a lot of detail you can use them to solve lots of problems.

‘I feel I can work things out by applying what I know in a logical way. I’m proud of how far I’ve come.’

Emily Hudsmith, head of maths at Charter, says the key to success is fewer key topics done well.

‘Maths mastery’ covers just six topics in a year compared to anything between 15 and 20 in the national curriculum.

She says: ‘We want every child to be successful in maths. We will keep teaching a topic until a child has learned it – and after that they never have to do it again as they will come away with a real in-depth knowledge and they will apply it like second nature.

‘Every student should reach mastery standards. There are no longer any students left behind and the perception of maths is changing.

‘We are moving away from the culture that it’s a badge of honour to be bad at maths.’

She adds: ‘Maths is fundamentally important in life, just like literacy. It helps you buy your groceries and problem-solve. Statistically, people who do well in maths will go on to earn more.’