What is Big Maths?

Big Maths is a teaching method created by Ben Harding that embraces the logical nature of maths, translating it into simple Steps and Progress Drives. This makes progress easy and fun for both children and teachers giving all pupils the opportunity to achieve.

Other strategies approach the teaching of maths in the ‘traditional way’; giving teachers broad curriculum statements with little accurate guidance on how to get pupils there. In Big Maths there is great detail built into the system that allows all teachers to experience high subject knowledge and teacher expertise, therefore getting the chronology of the maths journey right for each child.

How Does Big Maths Work?

Primary Mathematics is one big interconnected subject. When we come to teach mathematics to children we break it down into very small manageable steps, teach each step in isolation, and then put it back together again. We are connecting each step to related surrounding steps as we go and showing the children how to use and apply existing skills and knowledge in new situations as well as developing the reasoning to justify this.

Big Maths begins with a model of numeracy development that provides an innovative and highly effective way of looking at the Primary Mathematics curriculum. It cashes in on the nature of maths, using CLIC as a chronological framework for securing basic skills and on the logical steps of progression that sit naturally in mathematical progression, which we call Progress Drives.


Acquiring the Basic Skills

Children acquire the basic skills of Mathematics through the chronology of CLIC. When we look at Core Numeracy in more detail we see that it has a 4 stage process to it:

children learn to count and to ‘count on’.

Learn Its
children then short-cut this counting by recalling their ‘counting on’ as facts.

It’s Nothing New
children then ‘swap the thing’ to realise that the counting fact, or ‘Learn It’, can be applied to any object, amount or unit of measure.

the previous 3 phases are combined to provide a calculation structure.

The maxim of Big Maths is: ‘Get it, then use it!’

A Journey to Outer Numeracy

We call the rest of the mathematics curriculum ‘Outer Numeracy’. This gives us a ‘simple view’ of the primary Mathematics Curriculum. Basic skills (CLIC) need to be acquired before they are used in different contexts.

Of course, a child doesn’t completely finish the CLIC journey before starting Outer Numeracy. Core numeracy ‘races ahead’ of Outer Numeracy meaning the teaching is constantly pressing abstract basic skills through CLIC but also then constantly showing children how to use and apply these skills in context through Outer Numeracy.

When we zoom into Outer Numeracy we see four aspects but this time they are non-chronological.


Real Life Maths

(think ‘word problems’) These are worded scenarios that ask children to solve problems that attempt to mimic real life.

For example, ‘There are 20 pencils in a box. 50 children need 2 pencils each. How many boxes are needed?’ All CLIC skills can be taken into real life context.

SAFE Maths

(think shape, measure, fractions and data) This refers to a large amount of primary mathematics curriculum content. Virtually all of SAFE Maths is underpinned by a Core Numeracy element.

2D, 3D, Coordinates etc…

Measures for distance, mass, angles etc…

Fractions of amounts, percentages, ratio etc…

Explaining Data
Graphs, probability…



(think ‘Column Methods, Calculators and Cool Moves’) These refer to more efficient aspects of numeracy beyond the core.

For example, one might teach children to add using near doubles, or to solve 405 – 198 by adding 2 to both numbers. This means the question is easily rewritten as 407 – 200 and the gap between the two numbers becomes clearer. These methods also include Column Methods and solving calculations using a calculator.

Dangerous Maths

(think ‘number problems’) This means maths problems that take the child out of their immediate comfort zone and require more creative and analytical thinking.

For example, ‘What is the highest square number under 1000?’ Dangerous Maths also includes algebra and number patterns. We just use the phrase ‘Dangerous Maths’ as teachers to remind us that children shouldn’t find this part of the maths curriculum easy.


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The Big Maths Way



Big Maths Beat That! starts as a useful tool for baseline assessment which will show you where each pupil needs to start and identify the spread. It is then used each week to formatively assess pupils. This clearly identifies what the pupil can and can’t do.



Each step in Big Maths is linked to a term by term Learning Journey that shows what to teach and when to teach it. This journey is aligned to age-related expectations. You can be confident that by teaching Big Maths you are covering every single curriculum requirement.



Big Maths has teacher notes, lesson plans and resources that clearly show how to teach each step. These resources highlight the true lines of progression in each teacher’s mind and collectively across school.



The continual cycle of teaching small steps, planning and assessing makes tracking progress a much simpler process. The pupils’ Beat That! scores give an ongoing record of progression which is directly linked to the skills they are mastering.

Weekly Assessments Linked to your Curriculum

Big Maths Beat That! is linked to the term by term Big Maths journey that is aligned to national age-related expectations.

There are three parts to Big Maths Beat That! and schools typically assess all children in all three parts at the end of every week. These parts are:

  • The CLIC Challenges
  • The Learn Its Challenges
  • The SAFE Maths Challenges

It is called Beat That! because we constantly challenge each child to achieve their best ever score. So at the weekly level, it is all about self improvement and progress. The focus is not on attainment, the focus is on progress. The child, teacher and school leader are all focused on tracking improvements. Of course, if we get progress right, attainment sorts itself out!


Summative and Formative Assessment

Big Maths Beat That! provides a progressive bank of assessments. For example, there are 15 steps of progression that every child is travelling along on their Learn Its journey. Big Maths Beat That! has an assessment for each step and so we can use it to find out the current step of the child. From this simple progressive structure we can not only see what the child can currently do and understand but the system will also inform us what to teach the child next.

With Big Maths Beat That! you will also be able to:

    • Drive progress
    • Use it with children to celebrate, motivate and engage!
    • Track progress
    • Use it flexibly
    • Hardwire Basic Skills

Save Valuable Time with Clear Planning

There are two planning documents – CLIC Planning which focuses on the basic skills and SAFE Planning which addresses the rest of the mathematics curriculum. These simple documents allow teachers to answer the following:

  • Attainment: Which step should this child be on?
  • Progress: Are they climbing the Progress Drive quickly enough?
  • Balance: Can i afford to spend more time on Outer Numeracy or is the child’s basic skills (CLIC) still a priority?
  • Medium-Term Planning: Which Progress Drives and which steps should I teach next term?
  • Intervention: Can we get this child to this step by this time?
  • Prevention: Can we make sure children don’t develop learning gaps?
  • Long-Term Planning: What does the child’s basic skills journey for mathematics actually look like?
  • Manageability: How can I manage my spread of ability so it doesn’t render me ineffective?

Find out more about
Big Maths in Schools

Don’t just take our word for it. Find out why Big Maths has transformed numeracy standards in these schools.

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