Teaching mathematics to lower attainers: dilemmas and discourses

Susan Gifford, Julie Alderton

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This article draws on Foucault’s concepts of power and discourse to explore the issues of teaching mathematics to low attainers in primary schools in England. We analyse a data set of interviews, from a larger study, with the mathematics teachers of one child across three years, showing how accountability practices, discourses of ability and inclusion policies interrelate to regulate both teachers and student. We demonstrate the impact of neoliberal policy discourses on teachers’ practices and how they are caught up in conflicting ways by an accountability regime that subverts inclusive pedagogies, requiring teachers to monitor, label and assign within-child deficits. In spite of these regulatory technologies we identify contradictory fault lines between mathematics education policy discourses which we argue provide the potential for developing critical awareness of accepted practices and opportunities for change. © 2018, Taylor & Francis. The attached document (embargoed until 29/07/2019) is an author produced version of a paper published in Research in Mathematics Education uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self- archiving policy. The final published version (version of record) is available online at the link below. Some minor differences between this version and the final published version may remain. We suggest you refer to the final published version should you wish to cite from it.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1- 17
Number of pages17
JournalResearch in Mathematics Education
Issue number1
Early online date29 Jan 2018
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 29 Jan 2018


  • Mathematics education; accountability; ability; discourse; inclusion; low attainers; Foucault

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