Secondary Shanghai exchange underway

During November, 70 teachers from Shanghai will be in England, teaching in secondary schools in every Maths Hub area, mainly in Year 7 and 8 classes. This follows the same pattern as the primary exchange last year, and, like last year, the exchange element is part of a long-term research project to identify teaching approaches used in Shanghai that can be successfully introduced in English schools.

In the outward leg of the exchange, teachers from English schools--two from each Maths Hub-- went to observe, in detail, their counterparts’ teaching in Shanghai, and get a first-hand view of how lessons, timetables and teacher professional development time are organised.

Among the most common observations of Shanghai maths teaching were:

  • use of high-quality textbooks as a constant teacher tool, before, during and after lessons
  • each lesson concentrating on a single mathematical concept, illuminated in great depth, and gone through in small steps
  • relentless insistence by Shanghai teachers on pupils giving reasons, in full sentences, for their answers in class
  • speedy, same day intervention for students struggling to grasp a concept
  • the frequent use of ‘non-examples:’ for example where a concept does not apply, why a method does not work
  • students commenting on, or correcting each other’s work, in front of the rest of the class

Each exchange secondary school here has developed a detailed plan for when the Shanghai teachers are here, with a mix of time in class, time working alongside their English partner teacher, and time participating in teacher research group- type activity with teachers from the host school and beyond.


Robert Wilne NCETM Director for Secondary

The NCETM’s Director for Secondary, Robert Wilne, is leading the secondary exchange.

‘In the 50-plus lessons taught by Shanghai teachers that I’ve observed, I’ve seen again and again that the pupils, guided by their teachers, acquire deep, confident and flexible conceptual understanding of the precise mathematical idea that is the focus of each lesson. I’ve seen much pedagogy and practice that is common, but also I’ve seen that each teacher is always making individual decisions and context-specific choices. Across the 34 Maths Hubs, in November and ongoing, it’s your opportunity: there will be many professional development activities, in particular watching “demo” lessons and then participating in forensic pre- and post-observation discussions. By taking part in these, our collective understanding of the “what” and the “why” of Chinese maths teaching will take root, and by the end of the academic year I hope there will be, across England, a great many teachers whose already strong classroom practice, now cross-pollinated with Chinese ideas, will be blossoming with hybrid vigour.’


Read what the NCETM and teachers thought of Shanghai maths lessons at