Teacher and two pupils in school class looking at each other

What is maths mastery?

Well, let's start with a quick overview. Here's the official definition:

Maths mastery is an approach to mathematics education which is based on mastery learning in which most students are expected to achieve a high level of competence before progressing.” 

And we agree! The Math-U-See program has embraced the idea that students learn best incrementally, with one skill building on to the next. Students will develop a thorough comprehension of one concept before advancing. Our mastery approach provides a given set of concepts that repeat from level to level. More depth is added each time the material is revisited, linking new concepts to the skills already learned.

It's like learning to crawl before running. You don't start with marathon training. You start by putting one hand in front of each other, learning to crawl, and then slowly build from there.  

There are several ways you can monitor your student’s progress and determine whether maths mastery has been achieved. A key factor to any of these methods includes recognising that assessing mastery is an ongoing process and is not something that can be determined by a final test or quiz.

The 3 Step Checklist

1. Monitor your Students

Collecting information about how our student(s) are learning and interpreting information as educators and parents is a continuous process. Students are always letting us know how things are going through their questions, explanations, and work. Body language is a great indicator of their curiosity, enthusiasm, dislike, or confusion regarding their level of confidence with a particular concept or skill. These simple observations provide a great opportunity for the lesson to be adjusted according to the student’s needs.

It also provides students the ability to open up about what they are having difficulties with and readily seek support. Students can strengthen their understand and progress toward maths mastery by being shown alternative methods, given additional practice time, allowed a break or simply given the time opportunity to ask more questions.

2. Create Casual Conversations

Conversations we have with our students are a powerful tool for assessing mastery! Listening to a student “teach back” an idea or skill, we can garner a better sense of their progress. 

These talks can provide descriptive and construction feedback to help improve their work and comprehension. In these conversations, avoid comparisons with other students and be specific and encouraging to clarify any parts of the concept they do not fully grasp.

Ask questions, such as, “Can you explain more about that?”, “How would you create this into a word problem?”, or “Can you walk me through how you arrived at your answer?”. This method of questioning invites students to share and expand their thinking by requiring them to provide clear explanations. During this time, teachers have the unique opportunity to reteach, refine and encourage a students journey to maths mastery.

Proficiency plays an important role in the mastery process. Students who have displayed an understanding of a concept but has yet to become proficient will struggle with progressing. This concept of having your student "teach back" what they have learnt is proven by research to work wonders, and is explored through each lesson
in the Math-U-See program.

3. Collaborate on Individual Projects

Encourage students to take an active role in their own learning and successfully achieve maths mastery by implementing long-term projects and real-life applications. While we are guiding our student’s education, we should be sure to have a solid understanding of what concepts are required for the project to avoid unrealistic expectations which could result in frustration for students and educators alike.

Fun projects like cooking, arts and crafts, caring for pets, or gardening provide an opportunity for a deeper understanding of mastered concepts and can provide a lane to introduce new concepts. During these times, monitoring the process to reach their goal is important for students to achieve mastery.

”Maths mastery requires practice, re-teaching, encouragement, and quite a bit of patience. Allow your student(s) to enjoy themselves and the benefits of the journey.”

During the project, students may seek out suggestions to improve or clarify points. For example, a student who is working to make a kite may request support of their methods when they realize they have to implement certain maths concepts. Take advantage of these moments of inquiry to guide instruction and help your student(s).

Therefore, it is vital to bear in mind that each students journey to maths mastery will be unique. Stay focused on how your student(s) learn beast. Listen, observe, and share meaningful observations to support the students and encourage them to improve at their own pace.

Make any necessary adjustments to your lessons

It is quite important to monitor and make adjustments to the lesson through your observations and conversations with students at each step of the mastery process. Maths mastery requires practice, re-teaching, encouragement, and quite a bit of patience. Allow your student(s) to enjoy themselves and the benefits of the journey.

Through practice, they will learn how to persevere and achieve maths mastery with the Math-U-See program. You can see the full program (from Primary to Grade 12 and University Level maths) overview and find out how it works here.

Let us know if you have in the comments below. You can also contact us directly.


The Team at Maths Australia

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