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Developing Maths Project

Further developing maths at Sutton Courtenay

We are passionate about maths at Sutton Courtenay and aim to inspire confidence and curiosity in our children when we teach it.

We recognise that the curriculum can be divided into three areas:

  • Fluency
  • Problem solving
  • Reasoning


We believe that fluency comes from confidence with mental and written strategies based on a firm conceptual understanding which has its foundations in using concrete methods. Without fluency, children struggle to problem solve or reason effectively. Focusing on developing fluency has been priority for us and has ensured continued and significant improvements in our KS2 results and progress scores over the past few years.

Problem solving and reasoning

Problem solving and reasoning to develop mastery of mathematical concepts is built into the curriculum however we believe children need to be taught how to systematically and logically apply their learning. In 2019 we made the growth of problem solving and reasoning skills core to our Maths Development Plan. We undertook a survey of our current practises, worked with other schools (both primary and secondary) to learn from their experiences and shared this learning with our staff through two CPD workshops. From the workshops we identified the need for us to specifically teach problem solving skills (pattern spotting, visualising, trial and improvement, logical reasoning, working backwards and using what you know in new concept) and key vocabulary and sentence starters to enable verbal and written explaining.


Launching in September 2019, we developed a project in conjunction with Didcot Girls School (DGS), with staff working with a group of the more-able (maths) Year 5 and 6 pupils on a weekly basis to improve verbal and written reasoning. The learning from this work will be rolled out to the rest of Year 5 and 6 in Spring 2020 and to Year 4 from Summer 2020 with team teaching from our own and DGS staff. The project is based on the Nrich progression in reasoning spectrum:

  • Describing: simply tells what they did.
  • Explaining: offers some reasons for what they did. These may or may not be correct.  The argument may yet not hang together coherently. This is the beginning of inductive reasoning.
  • Convincing: confident that their chain of reasoning is right and may use words such as, ‘I reckon’ or ‘without doubt’. The underlying mathematical argument may or may not be accurate yet is likely to have more coherence and completeness than the explaining stage. This is called inductive reasoning.
  • Justifying: a correct logical argument that has a complete chain of reasoning to it and uses words such as ‘because’, ‘therefore’, ‘and so’, ‘that leads to’ ...
  • Proving: a watertight argument that is mathematically sound, often based on generalisations and underlying structure. This is also called deductive reasoning.

We recognise that children are unlikely to move fluidly from one step to the other, rather flow up and down the spectrum settling on a particular step that best describes their reasoning skills at any one time however we believe they need to be able to articulate their thinking in verbal and written form and so we (Maths Coordinator and DGS staff) held a third CPD workshop in late 2019 to support staff in developing this in the classroom. As a result we now have standardised sentence starters for helping children to verbalise and write their reasoning.

Next Steps

We know that the full impact of this project will be unlikely to be measurable through data for several years however, our internal reviewing processes show us that the children are beginning to develop the vocabulary and strategies needed to deepen their understanding and application of mathematical concepts.