Professional Development

How mixed-attainment grouping affects the way students experience mathematics

Mixed-attainment mathematics teaching is not a common practice in England, despite evidence that ability grouping is not an effective strategy for improving educational outcomes. It is a much debated topic among teachers. In this talk, Tom Francome addresses the background to the debates and discuss a study comparing mathematics in two schools: School M (mixed-ability groupings) and School S (sets). This suggests that grouping practices could influence students’ mindsets, teachers’ mindsets and teachers’ beliefs and practices. This is interesting currently, as social-distancing means many schools are teaching mathematics in mixed-attainment groups, and has implications for further research, as mixed-attainment groupings may be a factor in determining the way in which students experience learning mathematics.


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About Tom Francome

Tom Francome is a Senior Fellow in the Centre for Mathematical Cognition in Loughborough University’s Mathematics Education Centre.

Tom taught mathematics in schools and worked for many years as a Head of Mathematics and Head of Faculty. He established an innovative approach with his department, built on the philosophy that every pupil can develop as a mathematician through sensitive teaching, collective effort and rich mathematical experiences. Tom's approach was recognised nationally when his department won the TES Award for 'Maths Team of the Year 2015'. Tom contributed lesson materials for the EEF-funded project on Best Practice in Mixed-Attainment Teaching. This work was awarded the 2016 BCF-BERA Routledge Curriculum Journal Prize.

Tom was previously a lecturer in secondary mathematics education at the University of Birmingham. He now teaches on Loughborough’s outstanding mathematics PGCE, and his wider role in the Centre is to work to integrate basic research, academic scholarship and practical experience.

Ages: Primary, Secondary