Maths Marking and Feedback Decisions

This post is a record of the CPD session from Spring 2014 where we worked on our maths feedback.


These are the principles behind the decisions that we make about the type of feedback that we give. Marking should not be a time consuming chore so any decision that we make about how we give feedback needs to consider the impact for the time and effort that we invest.

Bright Spots

In this example from Year 1, the teacher, seeing that the child was successful with the given task, has written a more challenging question where the position of the empty box has changed. Any written work would have been a waste, as the child will have found reading and understanding difficult. Clearly, there has been some communication between child and teacher to explain the twist – that an inverse operation is needed.

In this example from Year 3, you can clearly see that the teacher’s explanation and modelling has led to the child understanding the calculation strategy well. A simply written, short question here probes understanding further and encourages links to be made.

This Year 4 example shows a couple of strategies. First, the teacher has reminded the child of how to approach the problem, which resulted in the child able to correct their initial mistake. Second, the teacher asked the child to clarify the calculation needed, which led to the child being able to sort the information in the problem and then solve it.

Here in Year 5, the child originally made mistake. The teacher helped the child to focus on the important bit of the problem, which enabled them to successfully correct the mistake.

In this Year 6 example, the child identified the calculation needed but made a mistake calculating. The teacher, though, knew that the child may not have understood the nature of the problem so the bar model was drawn to help the teacher explain the problem. Also, the teacher clearly intervened in terms of prompting a calculation method that enabled the child to correct the original mistake.

Mark the process or mark the answer?

This photo is from a child’s book in Year 2. The child has calculated accurately but the strategy that they used was particularly inefficient. In this case, that inefficiency definitely needs to be the focus of the feedback. This is important because we show what we value by doing this – that understanding is more important that simply getting questions right.

They got everything right!

Getting everything right can mean a number of things. It could mean that there was a lack of challenge; that it was pitched too low. Of course, there is also the case the child couldn’t do it before, had a clear explanation and understood it quickly. Knowing the situation determines the feedback. We also need to acknowledge another situation where children get it all right. Over learning something until they can do it with minimal thinking is an important part of mastery. In the example above, the child had already been shown how to divide using short division, but the purpose of the practice was to stave off forgetting. It was a situation where the teacher should expect that there’d be very few mistakes. There was only a few questions and this would have been repeated, spaced out over time to aid the transfer to long term memory.


The feedback still needs to be considered carefully though. There are a couple of choices. The feedback could focus on pushing further, perhaps introducing trickier numbers. Alternatively, the feedback could centre on the expectation that this is remembered, that the child should practise at home and that in a week or so, they can be as successful.

Making decisions when marking

So to aid the decisions that are necessary when considering the appropriate feedback, these decision trees are provided. One is for basic practice tasks, and one is for problem solving tasks.

What followed was some deliberate practice of this decision making. Teachers worked in year teams to decide on appropriate feedback, using some unmarked work that they brought with them.

To continue to ensure that our feedback in maths books is effective, it is important that we discuss and question the possibilities, so that those decisions can be made with increasing efficiency.

Further reading


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