Press release: South Asian method of teaching maths to be rolled out in schools

The south Asian ‘mastery’ approach to teaching maths is set to become a standard fixture in England’s primary schools, thanks to a major expansion announced by Schools Minister Nick Gibb today (Tuesday 12 July 2016).

With the help of up to £41 million of funding, more than 8,000 primary schools – half of the total number in England – will receive support to adopt the approach, which is used by some of the leading performers in maths in the world, including Shanghai, Singapore and Hong Kong.

Recent international tests show that in these locations the percentage of 15-year-olds who are ‘functionally innumerate’ – unable to perform basic calculations – was more than 10 percentage points lower than in England.

The maths mastery approach is marked by careful planning, ensuring no pupil’s understanding is left to chance. It is already used in a number of England’s schools following a pioneering teacher exchange programme between England and Shanghai led by a network of maths hubs.

The funding will ensure it is used far more widely, with an initial 700 teachers to be trained to support schools in maths mastery, and funding available for textbooks. It will also be used to fund teacher release so teachers can be trained.

Maths mastery involves children being taught as a whole class, building depth of understanding of the structure of maths, supported by the use of high-quality textbooks, and began being used in England in 2014.

Mr Gibb, who visited Shanghai in March to see maths teaching in practice, will announce the expansion today (12 July 2016) in a speech at the Advisory Committee on Mathematics Education (ACME) conference.

Schools Minister Nick Gibb said:

“We are seeing a renaissance in maths teaching in this country, with good ideas from around the world helping to enliven our classrooms.

“The significant expansion of the south Asian maths mastery approach can only add to the positive momentum, with thousands more young people having access to specialist teachers and quality textbooks.

“I am confident that the steps we are taking now will ensure young people are properly prepared for further study and the 21st century workplace, and that the too-often heard phrase ‘can’t do maths’ is consigned to the past.”

So far 140 teachers from primary schools in England have been trained by the National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics (NCETM) to help schools adopt the mastery approach.

The investment of up to £41 million, to be spread over the next 4 years, will allow hundreds more to be trained. The expansion will be led by maths hubs – 35 school-led centres of excellence in maths teaching.

Mr Gibb will also discuss the initial findings of an evaluation of the Shanghai exchange scheme by Sheffield Hallam University, published today (12 July 2016).

The evaluation, based on data collected between February and July last year (2015), found early indications that the exchange has the potential to foster a radical shift in mathematics teaching in participating primary schools.

The government has also today announced the launch of a tender for the national maths education centre, which will help in the training of specialist maths teachers.

Study into feasibility of compulsory maths study

In addition, the terms of reference will be published for a review into the feasibility of compulsory maths study for all pupils up to 18, which was announced in March and will be undertaken by Professor Sir Adrian Smith. The review will report by the end of 2016.

Terms of reference

The aim of the review is to:

  • consider the potential for improving the nature and scale of the study of mathematics from 16 to 18
  • ensure that the future workforce has the appropriate mathematical and quantitative skills

Background rationale:

  • economic overview of current and projected supply and demand for mathematical and quantitative skills in the workforce
  • overview of the current and planned pathways for 16 to 18 mathematics provision and levels of take up

Options for improvement:

  • identifying gaps in provision and potential new pathways

  • examining ways to increase take up, including the case and feasibility for all students continuing to study mathematics to 18


  • identifying key delivery barriers to increased provision and take up, including teacher supply and financial constraints, and how these might be overcome
  • examining potential novel uses of technology

Governance and timing:

The review, led by Professor Sir Adrian Smith for DfE, will report to both HMT and DfE by the end of 2016.

For more information please contact:

Further information

The teacher-led Shanghai exchange is part of the government’s maths hub programme – a national network of centres of excellence in the teaching of mathematics announced in December 2013.

DfE enquiries

Central newsdesk
020 7783 8300

General enquiries
0370 000 2288

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