Top-performing Asian schools use the "mastery approach"; learn why it's quickly spreading

Top-performing Asian schools use the "mastery approach"; learn why it's quickly spreading

Learn about the "mastery approach": how it works, why it's spreading, and if it's right for your kids!

The mastery approach--an efficient system for learning mathematics used prevalently in South Asian cities like Shanghai, China and Singapore-- is rapidly spreading across various countries and being implemented in schools worldwide. The reason schools are beginning to apply the approach into their curriculums is due to its high success rate; specifically how the system yields high scores from students on international tests.

Alexei Vernitski, a senior lecturer at the University of Essex, claims that, "Under the mastery approach, students learn a specific concept before moving on to more complex ideas, in a rigidly linear progression."


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Schools in England are looking to shift gears and put the mastery approach into effect into their schools. Currently, the standard for teaching mathematics in England is known as the "mindset approach". Wherein, students are taught to have a more intuitive understanding of math concepts and starts with a broader concept before breaking down a math problem into the specific steps for solving.

Yahoo News reports that, "[H]alf of primary schools in England are getting £41 million (roughly $54 million) over the next four years to teach the method," as stated by the UK government.

This transition from mindset to mastery doesn't come abruptly. Apparently, as of 2015, 30 math teachers from Shanghai, China were flown into the UK by the Department for Education to teach the mastery approach to their local math teachers.

Learn more about this experimental transition period, and more about the mastery approach by visiting the next page! 

The Guardian chronicled the period in which Shanghai teachers taught English math teachers the mastery approach. In their article, they detail the experience of a London-based school called Fox School. This establishment introduced Chinese math teacher, Lilianjie Lu, and the mastery approach to 7 and 8-year-old students. Here's what The Guardian wrote of the experience:

"Lu begins by asking the children to read out the fractions on the screen. One child gives the answer – 'a half' – then the rest of the children repeat. Another child identifies a third, everyone repeats, a quarter, and so on."

8 kid homework library

"At the end of this part of the lesson the children give themselves a clap – not a boisterous round of applause with whoops and cheers, but five precise claps in a set rhythm. Then the children read the fractions out all over again before Lu moves on to how to write fractions."

Surprisingly, the classes and lessons utilizing the mastery approach often had shorter sessions when compared to other UK classrooms. On average, mastery approach classes lasted only 35 minutes, followed by a 15 minute recess period.

Ben McMullen, deputy head at Fox School, said in an interview with The Guardian, “There’s a lot of chanting and recitation which to our English ears seems a bit formulaic, but it’s a way of embedding that understanding.”

While Fox School found success with the system, they aren't alone. In fact, a 2015 study of over 140 different schools across the UK conducted by the UCL Institute of Education and Cambridge University found that the mastery approach improved the speed with which students learned math skills.


[H/T] Yahoo News

READ: An innovative way to teach math using LEGO!

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