Nine years on, a subject lead reflects on Maths — No Problem!

|6 min read

"Yes, I'm an enthusiastic maths lead, but I'm enthusiastic because the program is amazing. I can't be enthusiastic about something that I don't have faith in."

Debbie Lewis, maths lead at Langley Green Primary School in Crawley, said she knew Maths — No Problem! was the programme for them as soon as she did the training in 2015. It was part of an investigation she and her colleagues undertook when mastery was first introduced in the UK.

“We searched really widely before we chose Maths — No Problem! We did other training. But as soon as I did that training back in 2015, we just knew it was a really, really good programme.”

The school started using the programme immediately after the training, and they haven’t looked back. Langley Green is located in Crawley, West Sussex near Gatwick Airport. It’s a two-form entry school including a nursery class with about 480 pupils, with the majority speaking English as a second language.

Children raising their hands during a Maths — No Problem! lesson at Langley Green Primary School

Enthusiastic maths pupils at Langley Green Primary School.

The decision was taken to introduce the programme into Year 1 and Year 2 when they first began. It wasn’t easy to begin with. As Debbie says, it takes time to embed anything, but the trick is to persevere and to focus on constantly improving.

“It took us time. I think the first five years, it wasn't easy. We didn't have any good practitioners. I couldn't put my hands up and say I was the most amazing lead in it, because I wasn't sure what it should look like all the time.”

Three-day training

That was before she’d done any of the three-day training. Now, after having skilled up with the programme by having taken eight lots of the three-day training, she says she learns something different every time. She says it was important that she understands what the programme should look like in the classroom, how to recognize when the children are making progress, what journaling looks like and then making sure everyone else in the school is empowered, that everyone's on board and understands the program — why it works, how it works effectively and making sure they're invested in the programme.

“If they're not invested, if they don't think it's going to work, it's never going to work.”

Debbie says one of the most gratifying things about having come this far with the programme is that she sees how empowered the children are, so they know exactly what a lesson should look like and they will lead the learning. In fact, whenever there’s a new teacher, the children will guide the teacher through the lesson. They say, ‘this is what it looks like,’ and ‘we do this next.’

Maths teacher at Langely Green Primary teaching two children.

Pupils use concrete manipulatives in a Maths — No Problem! spacial reasoning lesson on 2D shapes.

“It empowers the children as well, and that's what good maths teaching should be about: facilitating the learning. The pupils are able to engage in the learning in their own way, through a variety of methods.”

The results have been transformative.

Amazing at maths

“The proof is in the pudding. Our children here are amazing at maths, and we get really good maths results.” The school’s latest Ofsted report included a deep dive. “Maths came out really strong, and what underpins that is Maths — No Problem!”

The most challenging issue as a lead is how to help struggling learners, in particular children in upper school who are working at a Year 1 and Year 2 level. For example, says Debbie, they may have an EHCP and they’re struggling to get number bonds to 10 and 20.

“Most children can access the learning, but it's those few children where the numbers are just out of the realm of their working reality. It's how you support them so it's inclusive. That’s the biggest question that I get as a lead.”

Debbie Lewis from Langley Green Primary School teaching time with clock manipulative

Learning time with Debbie Lewis.

How would she respond to people who say they don’t have the money or the time or the skilled staff to implement the programme.

“It’s really important to find the money to have the programme. It is fantastic.”

Her job is all about making sure everyone's on board and making sure everyone's really trained and they understand the program.

“Yes, I'm an enthusiastic maths lead, but I'm enthusiastic because the program is amazing. I can't be enthusiastic about something that I don't have faith in.”

Academy for training

Debbie says Academy, the Maths — No Problem! video library, has been extremely useful for training Early Career Teachers. In short bursts, they look at the anchor task, the maths journal and different parts of the lesson structure. The ECT then has a chance to practise in the classroom. Weekly observations with mentors, and specific observations with Debbie results in the teacher building up their knowledge of each part of the lesson over time.

“It's really important not to rush teachers or expect them to understand it too quickly. It is quite a complex lesson, it might be quite new to some people. So it's about breaking that down and making sure they really understand the purpose of each part of the lesson, so that they're going to be able to deliver new interactive lessons to the children.”

Debbie says she and her colleagues often refer to the Classroom Series and the Basics Explained Series in Academy. The Classroom Series features real-life footage of experts teaching maths mastery in an English primary school setting. The videos bring the mastery approach to life, demonstrating the use of Concrete-Pictorial- Abstract and the three-part lesson structure.

The Basics Explained Series is designed to introduce maths mastery to parents, teaching assistants and other non-teachers who are unfamiliar with the teaching methods.

“It's great for parents. Get parents in, get them listening to the lesson of how the lesson works. A lot of our parents really don't understand. They say it's not how we were taught in school. So it gives them a chance to understand how it's taught.”

Langley Green has a specific training programme for its teachers. After gaining a couple of years’ experience, every teacher would have a chance to take the three-day training. In addition, every member of staff visits an accredited school to see how the lessons are taught in their own year group. They also use Academy to tighten up specific areas as required. And they’ve made use of the talents of Maths — No Problem! Lead Trainer Adam Gifford for some bespoke training.

“We try to make full use of absolutely everything, because the more training we give our teachers, the better placed they are to deliver really, really excellent lessons.”