Reflections from previous groups: Challenging topics

Here are some reflections from one of our previous Work Groups

Focus: Challenging Topics at GCSE – Quadratics

When: 2017-18

Led by: Sandra Weatherall, The Woodroffe School


  • Teachers to analyse what it is about Quadratic Relationships that makes it a more challenging topic and be able to apply these analytical skills more widely in the curriculum.
  • Teachers to explore what it means for teaching to be ‘effective’ for Quadratic Relationships and how this might be evaluated in class and through assessment in all its forms.
  • Maths departments in participant schools, through collaboration and experimentation, develop new and shared ways of preparing for, and teaching, Quadratic Relationships.
  • Pupils become more confident in their own skills and abilities, developing a deeper and more connected understanding of prior content thus enabling them to better tackle Quadratic Relationships.


Over the four sessions we worked collaboratively on-

  • “Quick wins” – sharing of methods for expanding and factorising quadratics, trialling different approaches.
  • Taking a particular strand of Quadratic Functions – Quadratic Graphs and exploring, developing and trialling approaches for teaching for depth
  • Questioning – exploring different questioning strategies. Working collaboratively on Same Surface Different Deep Structure questions.
  • Teaching for variation – Working collaboratively on planning lessons on different strands of quadratics using variation.

The work group was structured so that there was a facilitator and participants were encouraged to work collaboratively with other schools, to trial approaches and share findings, both positive and negative.

In between each session, participants created, trialled and evaluated a gap task based on the theme of the preceding session. At the final workshop participants also completed the Participant Summative Report, from which many of the findings below have been extracted.


I have developed a good bank of resources for some of the more complex topics associated with quadratics which makes planning lessons much easier. Also, changing the language I use at times so that students are exposed to different ways of asking the same thing.

For example, the last session has helped me think about variance and changing one small aspect of a question to develop understanding. When demonstrating examples to classes I am intending to give greater thought to the questions and to ensure that the jump between

I love to work collaboratively and this has definitely inspired me to work on lesson planning together with my colleagues much more often.

For me, the most useful part of the course was to share ideas to think about how to teach topics differently and to try to think of and experiment alternative ways of presenting a topic to a variety of classes. It was also great to collaborate with teachers from other schools to work on ideas without the daily pressures getting in the way.