Helen Hindle: Mixed attainment teaching and growth mindset

On this episode of the Mr Barton Maths Podcast, I spoke to Helen Hindle

Helen is the Director of Studies for Mathematics at a secondary school in East London

Now, regular listeners to the show will know that one of the many areas of maths education I am pretty clueless about is mixed ability, or mixed attainment teaching. I have always taught in sets in the two schools I’ve spent my career, and only experienced mixed ability teaching during my AST outreach work. So, when I spoke to Lucy Rycroft-Smith on this podcast, I made a pledge to find out more about it, and as such I was desperate to get Helen on the show. As well as being an experienced teacher, Helen is also the organiser of the Mixed Attainment Maths Conference, which brings together leading practitioners in the field to share challenges and effective strategies. And when I announced on Twitter that Helen was coming on the show, I was inundated with questions concerning mixed attainment teaching, thus suggesting it is an area of interest to many of you.

So, in what I thought was a fascinating conversation, we covered the following things, and much, much more besides:

  • Helen describes what a sequence of lessons on sequences would look like for her mixed attainment Year 7 class
  • I ask Helen why she believes in mixed attainment so much
  • Should we have mixed attainment for all year groups, or just Key Stage 3?
  • What are parents’ perceptions of their students being in mixed attainment classes?
  • What are Helen’s favourite go-to resources for mixed attainment lessons?
  • What role does formative assessment play in lessons?
  • How does Helen get students to work in groups and talk to each other so effectively?
  • The big one for me: how do you avoid “teaching to the middle” and ensure the brightest kids are stretched and the weakest are supported?
  • We then turn our attention to growth mindset, as I ask Helen what a growth mindset means to her, and how does she help develop it in her students?
  • Finally, Helen shares a few book recommendations, and reflects on what she wished she knew when she first started teaching that she knows now.

Now, let me say this at the outset – Helen keeps me on my toes. It is clear that we have quite different ways of thinking about lessons, and the best ways to help our students understand key concepts. This made it a challenging, but incredibly fun conversation, and I think there is little doubt that Helen came out on top. Indeed, following our conversation I went on another of my long walks to process Helen’s arguments, and reflect on my own teaching, and I will be sharing my conclusions in the Takeaway at the end of the interview. And whether you teach mixed attainment or setting, I know you will get something out of this interview.

Just before we crack on, I just wanted to say a huge thank you to all podcast listeners who have been kind enough to buy my book, “How I wish I’d taught maths”. If you enjoyed it, and have a moment to share a review on Amazon, I would be eternally grateful. If you didn’t enjoy it, then maybe keep it to yourself.

On Twitter, Helen is @HelenHindle1
The Mixed Attainment Maths website is: mixedattainmentmaths.com
Examples of the Learning Jounreys that Helen talks about are here
Helen has written a great blog post about her experiences of mixed attainment teaching here
The blog post by Kris Boulton I discuss in the Takeaway is here
Dylan Wiliam’s slide about the difficulty getting students in the correct set is:


Helen Hindle’s Big 3
1. Mixed attainment maths
2. Inquiry Maths
3. Open Middle

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

I am a maths teacher, currently teaching at Thornleigh Salesian College, Bolton, UK. Here are links to some of my work:
Mr Barton Maths Blog
Twitter: @mrbartonmaths
Diagnostic Questions
Mr Barton Maths Podcast
My book: How I wish I’d taught maths

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