Revealed: The experts who decide which maths mastery books are DfE-funded

Tes uncovers the reasons why some maths mastery textbooks are approved for funding – and a list of the experts who make the decision

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Primary schools have been given the choice of a second approved maths mastery textbook, it was announced this week. But who decides which books are approved? And how do they decide? 

While primary schools can use any textbook they choose to teach maths, they can only claim match funding under the government's Teaching for Mastery programme for textbooks that have been approved by the Department for Education’s expert panel.

Until this week, just one book, Maths – No Problem!, had been approved for funding, but now Power Maths Key Stage 1 has also been approved.

A freedom of information request from Tes has revealed that the members of the expert panel are: Debbie Morgan, director for primary at the National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics; Tim Oates, group director of assessment research and development at Cambridge Assessment; and Bruno Reddy, founder of Times Table Rock Stars and a maths educator and speaker.

The maths mastery approach

Publishers wanting their textbooks to be added to the list of recommended textbooks have to meet certain criteria set out by the DfE.

The criteria include:

  • Offering sufficient time and depth for the study of fundamental mathematical concepts;
  • Content should contain representations in the form of pictures and diagrams which reveal underlying mathematical structures;
  • Correct and precise mathematical vocabulary is introduced early alongside the concept.
     

The government is putting millions into spreading the East Asian maths mastery method of teaching maths into schools in England.

The method, which involves giving almost all of the children in a class the same content and focusing on developing deep understanding rather than giving different tasks to different groups, is thought to be one reason why Singapore, Shanghai and other East Asian countries dominate international league tables in maths.

The £41 million Teaching for Mastery programme aims to have at least one maths mastery-trained teacher in 8,400 primary schools by 2020.

Schools which joined the programme in 2017-18 are eligible for match funding this year and must claim their funding by December 2018.

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