Introduction to the New EEF mathematics guidance

8 December 2017

Author: James Siddle

There are eight recommendations in the mathematics guidance recently launched from the EEF, which can be found here. These cover a variety of foci from assessment, meta-cognition, interventions and transition:

  • Use assessment to build on pupils’ existing knowledge and understanding
  • Use manipulatives and representations
  • Teach strategies for solving problems
  • Enable pupils to develop a rich network of mathematical knowledge
  • Develop pupils’ independence and motivation
  • Use tasks and resources to challenge and support pupils’ mathematics
  • Use structured interventions to provide additional support
  • Support pupils to make a successful transition between primary and secondary school

There are eight recommendations in the new EEF maths guidance but what might one of these look like in practice?

Looking at the first recommendation, about assessment, in more detail, the recommendation states:

Mathematical knowledge and understanding can be thought of as consisting of several components and it is quite possible for pupils to have strengths in one component and weaknesses in another. It is therefore important that assessment is not just used to track pupils’ learning but also provides teachers with up-to-date and accurate information about the specifics of what pupils do and do not know. This information allows teachers to adapt their teaching so it builds on pupils’ existing knowledge, addresses their weaknesses, and focuses on the next steps that they need in order to make progress.


It is important that misconceptions are uncovered and addressed rather than side-stepped or ignored. Pupils will often defend their misconceptions, especially if they are based on sound, albeit limited, ideas. In this situation, teachers could think about how a misconception might have arisen and explore with pupils the ’partial truth’ that it is built on and the circumstances where it no longer applies. Counter-examples can be effective in challenging pupils’ belief in a misconception. However, pupils may need time and teacher support to develop richer and more robust conceptions.

Knowledge of the common errors and misconceptions in mathematics can be invaluable when designing and responding to assessment, as well as for predicting the difficulties learners are likely to encounter in advance. Teachers with knowledge of the common misconceptions can plan lessons to address potential misconceptions before they arise, for example, by comparing examples to non-examples when teaching new concepts. A non-example is something that is not an example of the concept.

How to support teachers in understanding and planning for common misconceptions?

The NCETM document ‘Misconceptions with the Key Objectives’ is a really useful document to support teachers with developing their practice linked to this area of the guidance. For example, many children Year 5 have misconceptions with understanding of the words parallel and perpendicular. So what does this document recommend?

Year Objective Misconception Key Questions Teaching Activity
5 Recognise parallel and perpendicular lines, and properties of rectangles Pupils confuse the mathematical vocabulary, words such as parallel and perpendicular. Often think that parallel lines also need to be the same length – often presented with examples that are. How would you check if two lines are parallel /perpendicular?
Tell me some facts about rectangles OR Give me some instructions to draw a rectangle.
What is the same about a square and a rectangle?
What might be different?
Is it possible for a right angle to have only three right angles? Why?
Ensure children are shown examples where parallel and perpendicular lines are of differing lengths and thicknesses, to ensure pupils look for the correct properties of the lines. Encourage children to look for examples in the environment, many pupils gaining success with drawn examples find this more difficult. Rather than just present pupils with pairs of lines, for them to decide if they are parallel or otherwise, ask them to draw a line parallel/ perpendicular to one already drawn.
Provide with ‘nearly’ examples, so they have to use a checking method – obvious examples will not be as valuable to them.

Not only are teachers supported in terms of knowing which misconceptions to plan around there are also nice teaching activities – how many of us are finding opportunities for pupils to use the outdoor environment to learn that parallel lines do not have to be the same length?

Posted on 8 December 2017
Posted in: Blog

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