Making Every Maths Lesson Count

Six principles to support great maths teaching

By: Emma McCrea


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Size: 235 x 156mm
Pages : 192
ISBN : 9781785833328
Format: Paperback
Published: May 2019

In Making Every Maths Lesson Count: Six principles to support great maths teaching, experienced maths teacher and lecturer Emma McCrea takes away the guesswork as she sums up the key components of effective maths teaching.

Maths classrooms are incredibly complex places. At any given time, the factors influencing the effectiveness of your teaching are boundless – and this can lead to relying on intuition as to what might work best.

This book aims to signpost a route through this complexity.

Writing in the practical, engaging style of the award-winning Making Every Lesson Count, Emma McCrea helps teachers to move beyond trial and error by sharing evidence-informed tips and suggestions on how they can nudge the impact of their teaching in the right direction.

Making Every Maths Lesson Count is underpinned by six pedagogical principles – challenge, explanation, modelling, practice, feedback and questioning – and presents 52 high-impact strategies designed to streamline teacher workload and ramp up the level of challenge in the maths classroom.

The book draws out the key findings from the latest research on memory, learning and motivation – and each chapter features numerous worked examples to demonstrate the theory in action, together with a concluding series of questions that will help maths practitioners relate the content to their own classroom practice. Furthermore, Emma's writing offers clarity around the language of maths teaching and learning, and also delves into the finer points of how to identify and address any misconceptions that students may hold.

Written for new and experienced practitioners alike, this gimmick-free guide provides sensible solutions to perennial problems and inspires a rich, challenging and evidence-based approach to the teaching of maths.

Suitable for maths teachers of students aged 11–18 years, and for primary school maths specialists.

Picture for author Emma McCrea

Emma McCrea

Emma McCrea is a senior lecturer at the University of Brighton, specialising in the design and delivery of evidence-informed teacher training for both trainee and experienced teachers. She has led professional development training for organisations such as the National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics (NCETM), Mathematics in Education and Industry (MEI) and the Maths Hubs. She is currently studying for a Fellowship in Education and is the founding director of an edtech start-up. Having started her career as a maths teacher at an innovative secondary school in East Sussex, Emma has since worked as a head of maths, qualified as an advanced skills teacher and led on teaching and learning and teacher professional development.


  1. Making Every Maths Lesson Count is a well-informed, systematic and engaging guide to successful mathematics teaching. Drawing upon her own experience and that of other respected professionals in the field, McCrea offers clear guidelines for effective practice in secondary mathematics teaching and learning. The book is clearly written and jargon-free, and McCrea's recommendations are supported by reference to published research from readily accessible sources including academic papers, websites and blogs. From my standpoint as a professional with over 20 years' experience in mathematics teacher education, I can see that this book would be effective both as a guide for novice teachers and as a source of ideas and challenge for experienced practitioners. McCrea is a knowledgeable author who conveys her ideas with passion and enthusiasm.
  2. “Are you
    - considering mathematics teaching as a career;
    - training to teach mathematics;
    - a newly qualified teacher of mathematics;
    - a teacher of mathematics with either one or many years' experience;
    - training/supporting teachers of mathematics?

    If you answer “yes” to any of these questions, then this fabulous book is for you and should be an essential purchase.

    It is the latest addition to the “Making every lesson count” series with the author applying the framework developed by Shaun Allison and Andy Tharby to the teaching of mathematics. The result is an outstanding contribution to the literature and a rich resource for anyone who teaches the subject at any level.

    It is a well-written, authoritative text, and is thoroughly grounded in the realities, expertly drawing out clear principles from the latest research on memory, learning, and motivation. Each chapter contains many references to a wealth of research and literature on teaching and learning mathematics, and more generally.

    You can use it to develop an informed and critical stance towards approaches and materials. It is packed full of practical ideas and examples, with many well-thought-through activities and associated tasks. Importantly it encourages readers to reflect on their practice and think about how they can try new approaches in the classroom. You will find yourself returning to it again and again.

    The framework advocated is comprised of six pedagogical principles that underpin great teaching and learning. Each is explored in a dedicated chapter alongside a range of evidence-informed, high-impact strategies (52 in total) that are easy to implement.

    Alongside these strategies, the author explores some of the big ideas in education:

    - why getting students to attend to what it is that we want them to learn is so important;

    - the role that cognitive load plays in learning and how we can use cognitive load theory to streamline our explanations;

    - how we can use the features of deliberate practice and embed retrieval practice strategies to supercharge the impact of the practice that students do;

    - how effective questioning can help teachers overcome the “curse of knowledge” and the Dunning-Kruger effect [a cognitive bias in which people mistakenly assess their cognitive ability as greater than it is];

    - the implications of the idea that when we measure learning in a lesson we are not actually measuring learning, we are measuring performance.

    The author acknowledges and discusses the difficulties faced when trying to measure the impact of changes and how to make changes sustainable. Potential solutions include the idea that if teachers try to change more than one feature of their teaching at a time they are likely to fail using the metaphor “if you try to catch five rabbits, you catch none”.

    This is an excellent handbook offering concise advice on contemporary maths teaching. If you want to make your mathematics teaching count, then look no further then this very welcome addition to the literature. It's indispensable reading.”

    Click here to read the review on Schools Weeks' website.
  3. I think the book Making Every Maths Lesson Count is well written, easy to dip in and out of and has lots of good ideas that we maybe know but had forgotten about. It certainly reminded me of several points or considerations and also new things I had not considered. I will certainly refer to it a lot when thinking about lesson planning and relevant knowledge and misconceptions. For people new to teaching Maths I think it has lots of very useful and valuable advice and ideas written in a way that is easy to follow.  It is obvious that it is written by someone that walks the walk not just talks the talk!
  4. A very accessible and interesting read. I liked a lot of the content of the chapters, particularly references to concepts such as CPA, -˜mastery', and practical activities/use of manipulatives. I like the references to mathematical websites and resources.

    I'm going to recommend it to my PGCE Secondary Mathematics trainees and to my Secondary Mathematics Subject Knowledge Enhancement students.
  5. For those of you unfamiliar with the 'Making every...' series, the series of books covers a huge range of subjects and began with 'Making every lesson count'. From my limited understanding (based on two books and the introduction to this one) each follows a framework of six principles, adapted and focused on the subject at hand.

    The chapters are well laid out and clear, taking the reader through the six principles: Challenge, Explanation and Modelling (rolled together because, as McCrea points out, you cannot truly have one without the other in maths teaching) Practice, Questioning and Feedback. As I mentioned, these principles underpin good teaching and feature in all the 'Making every...' books, but they are specifically related to maths. Within each chapter, McCrea combines evidence-informed pedagogy (drawing on aspects including instruction, variation and cognitive load theory) with practical activities and suggestions, breaking each principle into a number of strategies (helpfully listed at the back of the book). While a higher proportion of the activities and maths problems provided are from secondary objectives, a number are primary and the strategies are applicable whichever phase you teach. Each chapter ends with thoughtful reflection questions to guide a teacher's application of the ideas to their own setting.

    Each chapter is laced with examples (pictures, tables, problems) and peppered with illustrations to break up the text. As noted earlier, the examples are often secondary in nature, but all, I feel, are within the grasp of any teacher in terms of accessibility. Mathematical concepts are also explained in a way teachers can understand even if subject knowledge of that concept is lacking. There are also some really great references to places to find out more, including sites to find specific types of activities. This is incredibly useful and they relate to a range of aspects.

    There is a huge amount to take from Making every maths lesson count, but a few stand out for me:

    Challenge is important, but teachers should carefully consider how challenge is introduced and how it is developed. McCrea delves deeper into challenge by introducing teachers to two ways of thinking about challenge - Depth of Knowledge (DoK) and FICT framework (familiarity, independence, complexity, technical demand) (p.21-28). These were new ways of thinking about challenge for me, although they encompass aspects I and most teachers will be familiar with. DoK has different levels to consider, and FICT considers the level of the four aspects in combination to increase challenge. This reiterates how challenge is not a case of 'do it another way' or 'make the numbers bigger' but needs to be a much more nuanced and considered part of planning and teaching.

    Worked examples (and paired examples) are a powerful way to develop understanding. McCrea stresses the use of paired examples - a modelled example, followed by a minimally different problem for pupils to solve. She argues that this supports the research of cognitive load and, by following this, allows pupils to learn. What also stood out to me was the concept of incorrect worked examples. Again, something that many teachers will use (spot the mistake, what went wrong and so on) but McCrea tightens ones thinking about these examples, stressing the importance on focusing on one error or misconception.

    We need to think about fluency synthesis when setting tasks and problems.' This is a big takeaway for me. 'Fluency synthesis tasks require students to apply their knowledge to more challenging procedural problems' (p.88) and McCrea goes on to explain that this involves recalling known knowledge. The example given sums up exactly what this means: while practising calculating the area of a triangle, pupils can develop fluency through the inclusion of fractions, decimals, metric/imperial measures and mixed units of measure. Furthermore, the procedure itself can be made more secure through inclusion of problems that are 'boundary cases' or non-standard, and those with too little or too much information. In this way, one task can secure a procedure as well as encourage pupils to retrieve known knowledge, which is a key aspect to making it 'stick'.' 

    Overall, Making every maths lesson count is an 'easy' read in the sense that it is an uncomplicated text to engage with, but is packed with strategies and suggestions that any maths teacher can benefit from. This would make an excellent addition to any CPD library for teachers of maths, at primary or secondary phase.
  6. Making Every Maths Lesson Count is underpinned by six pedagogical principles - challenge, explanation, modelling, practice, feedback and questioning - and presents 52 high-impact strategies designed to streamline teacher workload and ramp up the level of challenge in the maths classroom.

    Throughout this book, Emma McCrea (through extensive research and practice) explores how to manage mathematical misconceptions with practical ideas on many areas of the required curriculum. The six pedagogical principles mentioned above form the heart of the book, with metacognitive questioning given space in developing cognitive strategies with pupils.

    A majority of secondary maths teachers are well-versed in supporting students towards passing exams, but embedding many concepts within students can remain a challenge. This book helps teachers to explore misconceptions, helping to explain processes with no gimmicks and sensible solutions that should help inspire a rich, challenging and evidence-based approach to teaching maths.

    Suitable for maths teachers of students aged 11-18 years, and for primary school maths specialists.


    - A rich source of activities, explanations and inspiration for teaching secondary maths.
    - Illustrations throughout explain strategies in an accessible way.
    - The six principles explored all form the base for great teaching and learning.
    - Provides 52 pedagogical strategies rooted in theory and practice.
    - Book summarises key ideas in teaching secondary mathematics teaching.

    Click here to read the review on UKEdChat's website.
  7. Making Every Maths Lesson Count provides an authoritative take on how current ideas about the learning mind can inform lesson and task design in secondary school mathematics, way beyond anything commercial textbooks offer. The reader can use it to develop an informed and critical stance towards teaching approaches and materials, and also as a guide to designing their own. The range of examples presented is exceptional and stimulating.
  8. Making Every Maths Lesson Count is an excellent handbook to contemporary maths teaching for anyone wanting to become a high-performing practitioner.
  9. I really enjoyed the original Making Every Lesson Count, and I always learn something when I am lucky enough to hear Emma McCrea speak, so I was incredibly excited to read this maths-specific instalment in the series.

    It did not disappoint. I love its structure, its synthesis of research and practical applications, the ideas woven in from all over the world, the section on the great task designer Malcolm Swan, and the recommendation to check out my podcast (fiver in the post, Emma). Above all, I just love that a book like this exists, as I know it will make me a better teacher.
  10. With Making Every Maths Lesson Count Emma McCrea has managed a nearly impossible task: take a lifetime's worth of good advice on teaching mathematics and distil it into one practical and easy-to-read book. She does a great job of balancing the theoretical aspects of the ideas presented with practical suggestions and examples of those theories put into practice. The ideas of dozens of master teachers are incorporated into this book, leading to a work that is greater than the sum of its parts.
  11. Making Every Maths Lesson Count is a clear and eloquent introduction to the complicated and nuanced skill of high-quality mathematics teaching. From the urgency of conceptual understanding to the fundamentals of teaching for long-term memory, this book highlights and prioritises the most undeniably important components of teaching and learning in the mathematics classroom.
  12. Drawing on evidence from the canon of mathematics education and the more recently acknowledged field of cognitive science, Making Every Maths Lesson Count is packed full of practical ideas you could apply immediately, advice to embed over time, and wisdom that will be eminently useful for new and seasoned maths teachers alike. This book should be on every maths department's CPD shelf.
  13. Accessible, succinct and easily digestible, Making Every Maths Lesson Count neatly summarises the key ideas in maths teaching. It is thoroughly evidence-based and is packed full of suggested tasks and activities. I love the prompts encouraging readers to reflect on their practice and think about how they can try out new approaches in the classroom. 

    Essential reading for trainee maths teachers, and it will be of great benefit to experienced teachers too.
  14. Each generation of maths teachers must rearticulate, in their own vernacular, the essential components of effective maths teaching as they see them. In Making Every Maths Lesson Count, an accomplished practitioner draws on current research, on her own experience in the classroom, and on the writings of fellow practitioners to provide sage advice and 52 pedagogical strategies rooted in both theory and practice. The important thing is that readers experiment for themselves, and reflect on their experience as they prepare to develop their practice in the future.
  15. Emma McCrea's Making Every Maths Lesson Count is essential reading for all teachers of mathematics, whether experienced or new. It manages that rare gift of being broad yet succinct, and is a reference piece that you'll find yourself coming back to again and again. While providing a solid overview of the state of play in the teaching of mathematics, it is also a jumping-off point to explore the people and ideas that are shaping its future.
  16. Making Every Maths Lesson Count is one of the best maths teaching books I've read. Emma takes you on a journey through the principles that underpin the Making Every lesson Count series and expertly adapts these for use in the maths classroom. In an engaging and highly accessible way, she manages to draw on research and expertise from across all aspects of education - which results in an exceptional balance of practical ideas and theory.
  17. In Making Every Maths Lesson Count Emma has expertly drawn together all the approaches and strategies a teacher can use to make their pupils better mathematicians. From old favourites like the use of mini whiteboards to more recent techniques such as “silent modelling”, each approach is brilliantly exemplified and illustrated.

    Simply put, every teacher of maths, whether they are just starting out or have been teaching for 30 years, will find something of value in Making Every Maths Lesson Count. It is the book of a lifetime for anyone involved in teaching mathematics.

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