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Mastery

Two parents' evenings back to back tonight, immediately after the last day of London Book Fair: I don't know what I did wrong in a previous life, but it must have been pretty bad. 

I used to understand primary school gradings - as a school governor, I had to master rainbow trackers and sub-level progression and all the niceties of a system that liked to spit out Year 6s at a 'secure level 5'. It was complicated, but (eventually) I got it. 

So my first reaction on learning last year that it had all changed was a mix of cynicism and resentment. ''Not another pointless change' and 'How could they, just when I finally understood it?'

But there is one concept in the new grading system that I can get right behind, and that is 'mastery'. My son's teacher explained it this way tonight: 'In the old days, if a child could multiply a three-digit number by a one-digit number [a Year 4 standard] we'd have said, "Great, now you can multiply three-digit numbers by two-digit numbers [a Year 5 standard]." Now instead we make it broader and deeper, we help them understand the concepts better and disguise the problem so they have to work to uncover it.' 

The more I think about that, the more I like it: not simply doing harder and harder sums, but having fun around the concepts, riffing off them once they're securely understood, making them into games, exploring WHY it works like that. I can't help feeling I'd have enjoyed maths a whole lot more with that appoach. 

It makes sense way past Year 4, of course. Mastery is about revelling in a skill: not just being securely competent, but having fun with it, discovering new patterns and concepts around it, experimenting, playing. For us just as much as 9-year-olds the secret ingredients of really effective learning are curiosity and fun. 

This entry was posted on 16 March 2017 at 20:53 and is filed under Other. You can leave a response here.

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