Teaching mathematics in primary schools – an EdShed guide

On Monday 6th July 2020, the Department for Education released guidance on teaching mathematics in primary schools. It is part of the Government’s plan to encourage schools to focus on key knowledge and skills (or operations) in mathematics as they build out and implement a “recovery curriculum”.

Something big seems to be happening whenever we see these appearing on our social media timelines and newsfeeds!

Since the document was released, we have been contacted by schools and teachers who use our resources to check if our lesson slides and online activities are in line with the guidance published on Monday. The short answer is… yes (and more)!

In truth, the guidance released is a boiled-down version of existing guidance published by the NCETM with greater focus on key facts and procedures, accompanied by additional commentary.

It is unsurprising that it’s so similar to existing NCETM materials, given the guidance documents released in early July 2020 are preceded by acknowledgments whose primary mention is Dr. Debbie Morgan, the NCETM’s Director for Primary Mathematics. (The video below shows Dr. Morgan speaking knowledgeably and enlighteningly in the Summer of 2016 about many of the topics touched upon in the government’s July 2020 guidance document.)

We have long been fans of Dr. Morgan and the NCETM – in fact, we work with NCETM Maths Hub Leads regularly in terms of consulting on and reviewing our resources and mathematics products. Therefore, it is natural that our resources are aligned with their guidance and ideas of best practice and therefore cover the guidance released by the Department for Education on Monday 6th July 2020.

The Government’s guidance focuses particularly on number knowledge and the four operations – although other areas, including shape, are elaborated upon too.

Teaching mathematics in primary schools (Year 1) – an EdShed guide

For example, the guidance document provides greater advice on using different equipment to identify and make numbers up to 100 in Year 1.

An example from the DfE and NCETM’s guidance for place value within 100 in Year 1.

Like the DfE’s guidance materials, our resources use straw bundles and single straws; however, MathShed resources use other equipment to identify and make numbers up to 100 too. It could be said that we offer greater conceptual and procedural variation than the guidance and building from place value within 10, through numbers up to 20, then numbers up to 50 and finally getting to place value within 100.

You can download the lesson “To be able to count to 100” for free here.

Teaching mathematics in primary schools (Year 2) – an EdShed guide

Similarly, the Government and NCETM’s guidance document advocates for children being shown pictorial representations of mathematical equipment alongside being introduced to multiplication and division.

An example from the DfE and NCETM’s guidance for multiplication and division in Year 2.

Our MathShed slides various equipment and images to introduce children to multiplication in our lessons, Year 2 – Autumn Block 4 – Multiplication and Division – Lesson 1 – To be able to identify equal groups – which isĀ FREE for you to download and use – and Year 2 – Autumn Block 4 – Multiplication and Division – Lesson 8 – To be able to use the 5 times table (a Premium resource available to MathShed subscribing schools and teachers).

Teaching mathematics in primary schools (Year 3) – an EdShed guide

The NECTM and Government’s joint guidance document recommends using multiple representations as children are introduced to a greater variety of fractions in Year 3.

An example from the DfE and NCETM’s guidance for fractions in Year 3.

MathShed lesson slides and online activities employ a wide variety of representations of both unit and non-unit fractions, including bar models, area diagrams, circle diagrams, and number lines, as well as going beyond those recommended by the NCETM and the Department for Education to offer children greater conceptual variation.

You can sample our first lesson for the Year 3 Fractions block – images shown above – by downloading it from here.

Teaching mathematics in primary schools (Year 4) – an EdShed guide

Moving further away from place value, the four operations and fractions, our resources also fall in line with the DfE guidance in other areas, including Geometry.

An example from the DfE and NCETM’s guidance for geometry (Translation) in Year 4.

As you can see below, MathShed’s lesson on moving shapes and coordinates in the first quadrant match the activities exemplified in the Government guidance.

Teaching mathematics in primary schools (Year 5) – an EdShed guide

As we may have expected, the Government’s advice stemming from the NCETM includes plenty of structures we are all familiar with: part-whole models, number lines, and bar models. In fact, the Government has exemplified using bar models to assist with the teaching of finding fractions of amounts.

An example from the DfE and NCETM’s guidance for fractions of amounts in Year 5.

We are big fans of bar modeling at MathShed and use them in various blocks and individual lessons, including our Year 5 finding a fraction of an amount lesson. Our Year 5 Fraction lessons are available here (Lesson 1 – To be able to explore equivalent fractions is free).

Teaching mathematics in primary schools (Year 6) – an EdShed guide

Use of bar models is advocated for in the Government’s teaching mathematics in primary school for the teaching of fractions in Year 6 too.

Like the DfE and NCETM guidance, our Year 6 comparing fractions employ bar models and annotated arrows to aid in comparing fractions pictorially as well as explicating the operations required to complete comparisons.

Our Year 6 Fractions lessons are available here. (You can access the first lesson Year 6 – Autumn Block 3 – Fractions – Lesson 1 – To be able to simplify fractions for FREE.)


So, we have checked our resources, and following our scheme you can be confident you will be teaching mathematics using procedures and structures recommended in the Government’s Teaching Mathematics in Primary Schools guidance document. There are some examples above, but feel free to check out as many Lesson 1s as you would like for free and if you are already a subscribing school or teacher as many other lessons as you can to see that our scheme is fully compliant across the board!