#096 Tom Francome: Supporting novice teachers, planning lessons and… Excel!

Apple PodcastsSpotifyGoogle PodcastsAnchorPodbeanStitcherPocketCasts

On this episode of the Mr Barton Maths Podcast I spoke to Tom Francome.

Tom became lecturer in secondary mathematics at the University of Birmingham after teaching in Birmingham schools for a number of years, most notably as Head of Mathematics at Kings Norton Girls’ School. He developed an innovative approach with his department teaching mathematics to mixed-attainment groups, recognised nationally and winning the TES Award for ‘Maths Team of the Year 2015’. Tom is interested in all aspects of educational research but in particular equitable approaches to teaching mathematics and the development of expertise. Tom is currently conducting PhD research into the nature of practising in mathematics.

I have been wanting to get Tom on the show for ages. If I were to pick one work to describe Tom, it would be “deep”. He is one of those people who never take things on face-value. He is able to cut through the noise and ask pertinent, challenging questions. As you will hear in this interview, this can be quite difficult, when the person on the receiving end of these pertinent, challenging questions is me!

So, in a wide ranging conversation,we discussed the following things, and plenty more besides:

  • First, given the length of Tom’s answers, I might be in breach of the Trade Descriptions Act in calling my first set of questions Speed Dating – but the tangents Tom goes off on are brilliant.
  • Tom then takes us through his fascinating career, with ups and downs that many will relate to
  • Then we get to Tom’s favourite failure, and as a warning for the emotionally included amongst us, there is a story in there that genuinely brought a tear to my eye
  • And then we focus in on Tom’s work with novice teachers – what difficulties do they face, how does Tom help them overcome them, and what advice does Tom have for teachers who work with novice teachers either as mentors or in supporting observations.
  • The insight Tom shares into lesson observations and subsequent feedback I found particularly illuminating.
  • Tom picks out a brilliant Big 3.
  • And as an incentive to stick around right to the end of the conversation, Tom says possibly the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard about how he plans lessons.

Now, at risk of taking a peak behind the curtain of the inner-workings of the podcast, I always send my guests a set of bullet-points containing the key areas I want to talk about and some key questions I will ask. I did the same with Tom, sending him around 20 questions in total. After nearly 3 hours, we got through 4 of them. But rarely have I learned more from a conversation, or enjoyed myself more.

Fortunately, I have locked Tom into a golden-handcuffs deal to return to the show later in 2020 to talk about the other areas on my list: teaching mixed-attainment, leading a maths department, and making the practice of mathematics as effective as possible. Stay tuned!

On Twitter, Tom is: @TFrancome

Tom kindly shared a selection of his lessons planned on Excel(!):

Tom Francome’s Big 3:
1. Prestage, S. and Perks, P. (2001) Adapting and extending secondary mathematics activities: New tasks for old. Routledge.
2. Hewitt, D. (1994) The principle of economy in the learning and teaching of mathematics. Open University.
. MathsBot
BONUS: Foster, C. (2018) ‘Developing mathematical fluency: comparing exercises and rich tasks’, Educational Studies in Mathematics, 97(2), pp. 121-141. This and more can be found here

My usual plugs:

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

Twitter: @mrbartonmaths

One thought on “#096 Tom Francome: Supporting novice teachers, planning lessons and… Excel!

  1. Thank you both for a very insightful three plus hours 🙂
    I am finishing my teacher training this week and listening to your conversation allowed me to think back on my trainee year. I can very much relate to Tom’s feedback from lesson observations comment, I remember all too well very detailed comments from one of my host teachers during the first placement, which I found helpful and overwhelming at the same time! And then overthinking what my mentor thought about my lesson during second placement when none or very limited feedback was given outside of the formal lesson observation.
    Thank you!

Leave a Reply