#078 Peter Mattock: Visible Maths, planning lessons and running a department

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On this episode of the Mr Barton Maths Podcast, I spoke to Peter Mattock.

Pete is Director of Maths & Numeracy in a secondary school in the Midlands. He is a Secondary Mastery Lead for the EMS Maths Hub, and Maths SLE & PD Lead – he has most of the alphabet covered there. He is also the author of a brand-new book, called Visible Maths.

I have had the pleasure of hearing Pete speak at several maths conferences over the years, and always found his sessions thought-provoking. And the same is very much true for his book. As we discuss in the interview, this is not an approach to teaching mathematics that I am experienced in, or entirely comfortable with, but it has certainly got me thinking.

So, in what turned out to be a wide-ranging conversation, we chatted about the following things and plenty more besides:

  • Pete does the earliest ever plug for a book, managing to mention it in his first sentence!
  • What is Pete’s favourite failure, and what did you learn from the experience?
  • Then Pete dives into a fascinating discussion about how he planned out a sequence of lessons on fractions for a mixed-attainment Year 7 group, and we go off on lots of tangents along the way, covering how before why and the issue of differentiation
  • Then I quiz Pete on his approach to running a maths department, including the mistakes he has made, his marking policy, what his departmental meetings look like, joint approaches to topics, and his tip for any aspiring head of department listening.
  • And then it is time to take a deep dive into Visible Maths, where we focus on Pete’s visual approach to 3 concepts: order of operations, division of fractions, and completing the square. The images Pete uses are available to look at in the show notes, and I strongly recommend you check them out
  • Finally Pete reflects on an important book, something he has changed his mind about, and what he wishes he’d known when he first started teaching that he knows now.

Once again, I loved this conversation. It left me with plenty to think about and reflect on, including how before why, mixed-attainment, sense making and more. Stick around at the end of the conversation where I mull over this in my Takeaway.

Two quick plugs before we crack on:

There are 20 free Diagnostic maths revision quizzes for Key Stage 2 SATs, GCSE Foundation and GCSE Higher available at diagnosticquestions.com/Revision2019 to check out the questions and quizzes.

And if you are interested in spreading the word about your product, service or event to 1000s of intelligent, engaged, and quite simply incredible listeners, then I am now offering the opportunity to sponsor episodes of this podcast. Just drop me an email at [email protected].

The images we talked about in the second half of the show are:

1. Order of operations:



2. Fraction division




3. Completing the square


On Twitter Pete is @MrMattock
His blog is: educatingmrmattock.blogspot.com
Pete’s book, Visible Maths, is available here
Pete’s Brockington College Maths Homework books are available from TES here

Pete Mattock’s Big 3
1. twitter.com – seriously, it is so useful and one place every maths teacher should be using regularly.
2. atm.org.uk So much good stuff here, so much thinking that has already been done that we can learn from. Much of it is only open to members, but at £8 a month it isn’t much for the level of knowledge available.
3. mathsbot.com – my go to site for most things – virtual manipulatives, quick question sets, loads of stuff.

My usual plugs:

Thanks so much for listening, and I really hope you enjoy the show!
Craig Barton


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