Tips for planning

Here are some tips and advice on some of the general principles of effective planning for primary mathematics.  This is not at all an exhaustive list but it will help you to think about what is important when planning – and perhaps to think about things you would not otherwise consider.

Teaching does not always equal learning

Effective planning requires careful thought and extensive knowledge of what the children already know and what they need to learn.

As with all planning, it is vital to first consider what you want the outcomes to be from the teaching sequence.

Focus on the learning

What is it that you want the children to know and understand by the end of the sequence?

This should build on previous learning or identified areas of misconception.

What might they produce or do to demonstrate this new knowledge and understanding?

There is a clear route through identifying learning

Intended learning 21.jpgSuccess criteria 21.jpgAssessment strategy

You do not always need a ‘product’ from the children to identify/evidence of their learning but HOW you will evidence it must be considered from the start.

Consider your ‘hook’

How will you engage the children in the activity right from the start?

Think about your classroom environment.  Is it best if children begin ‘on the carpet’ or ‘in front of the whiteboard’?  Is there any room for the children to move around?

Remember the resources

Resources (or manipulatives) are key to learning in primary mathematics.  Remember, the resource alone will not mean learning.  Be clear on how resources can help the learning in this lesson and support children with selection of resources.  Above all, ensure that resources are available and that children can easily access what they need for their own learning.

At each point you should think about three things:

What will the teacher be teaching and why?

What will the children be doing in order to learn?

How long will it take to do both of these?

Timing is important. Manage your time effectively, set clear expectations and communicate the time limits with your children.

Ask yourself:

Are there any common mathematical misconceptions that I need to be ready for?

It is important to consider and investigate the misconceptions about mathematics that children in your class may (or indeed already do) have.  Some of these are ‘common errors’ so ensure that you plan anticipates these.

Check that children have the learning skills needed for the lesson.

When planning mathematics lessons, it is important that you consider what the children will be doing as well as what they will be learning.  Ensure that children have

opportunities in the lesson to develop as independent learners.

Consider the development of reasoning skills within your lesson.  Ensure that your questioning is open enough to allow children to explore their own mathematical journeys.  Make allowance for the development of

mastery level understanding.

Use questioning effectively

and help children to build their own mathematical vocabularies.

Use a range of assessment strategies

to ensure you capture children’s learning.

Often we need to be with children at specific moments to assess effectively.

How will you use the additional support you have in your classroom?

Plan and discuss the lesson with your TA.

Always evaluate.

Planning is cyclical and your evaluation from the previous lesson should inform future planning.

Identify what went well alongside what didn’t work

It is often easier to identify what we do not do well than it is to identify our strengths.  Make sure your evaluations are balanced and realistic.

In this extract, Keira Sewell gives some advice on planning for primary science.  For support on planning for the whole primary curriculum, see:

Keira Sewell _Book Image

Keira Sewell is an independent educational consultant at Visionary Education ( She has over 25 years’ experience of support­ing the professional development of both trainee and experienced teachers and specialises in science education.