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Does setting in maths reduce student confidence?

Written by: Cordelia Myers
6 min read
CORDELIA MYERS CTEACH (LEADERSHIP), MATHS OUTREACH DIRECTOR, CAM ACADEMY TRUST, UK; STRATEGIC LEAD, CAMBRIDGE MATHS HUB, UK; TEACHER, CAMBOURNE VILLAGE COLLEGE, UK What impact does setting in mathematics have on confidence levels in our Year 7 students? Are the effects more marked for disadvantaged students? Introduction and rationale The assertion that setting students contributes to widening the attainment gap (Sobel, 2018; Allen and Sims, 2018a) is thought-provoking for those of us who work in schools where setting in maths is standard practice. Education Endowment Foundation (EEF, 2021) research on setting tentatively points to a possible negative impact on the lower attainers.  Our school currently teaches maths in sets. The aim of this small research project was to assess the impact of setting in maths on our students through measuring levels of confidence. If the data pointed to marked low confidence in our disadvantaged students, and it was determined that this was large

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    Simon Withey

    Confidence is a qualitative value and can be very subjective from a respondent’s point of view. What of the quantitative outcome? How do streaming and setting affect outcomes? In Finland, for example, the practice of setting and streaming was abandoned some time ago. This link may be of some interest. https://www.aqi.org.uk/blogs/finland-going-against-the-global-trend/. May I also refer you to Finnish Lessons 3.0, Pasi Sahlberg, 2021 “Excellence with equity” – OECD.

    Cordelia Myers

    What an interesting article, Simon. Thank you for the link. One of the things I found interesting in the research was how alike the two schools are in outcomes depite having different approaches. There are bigger issues here, I believe, than just setting and your link highlights that.

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