Professor Janet Ainley

Professor Janet AinleyProfessor of Education

BA (York)
PGCE (Exeter)
MEd, PhD (Warwick)

Tel: +44 (0)116 252 3690

Personal details


I joined the School as Professor of Education in 2006. My background is in primary teaching, but I have had a long career as a researcher and teacher educator in mathematics and statistics education.

I have a broad range of interests in mathematics and statistics education, and in the professional practice of teachers. I contribute regularly to national and international conferences and journals and supervise Doctoral work in a range of areas of mathematics and statistics education, including teacher development.

I have been a member of the ACME Outer Circle, a board member for the European society for Research in Mathematics Education, Chair of the British Society for Research in the Learning of Mathematics (2008-2010) and was a panel member for the Williams Review of Primary and Early Years Mathematics. I am also a member of the Pedagogy and Innovation in Mathematics and Science (education) Special Interest Group.


In addition to the supervision of research students, I contribute to the teaching of Research Methods teaching across the Doctoral programmes.

I additionally teach on the MA in Education: Learning and Teaching programme on the following modules:

  • Issues in Mathematics Education
  • Professional Enquiry


Selected publications

  1. Ainley, J., Gould, R. & Pratt, D. (2015) Learning to reason from samples: commentary from the perspectives of task design and the emergence of ‘big data’. Educational Studies in Mathematics DOI 10.1007/s10649-015-9592-4
  2. Pratt, D. & Ainley, J. (2014). Chance re-encounters: 'Computers in probability education’ revisited, in D. Frischemeier (Ed.). Rolf Biehler Turns 60! Springer FachmedienWiesbaden
  3. Ainley, J. (2012). Developing purposeful mathematical thinking: a curious tale of apple trees. PNA, 6(3), 85-103 (
  4. González, M. T., Espinal, C. & Ainley, J. (2011) Teachers’ Graphical Competence. In C. Batenero, G. Burril & C. Reading (Eds) Teaching Statistics in School Mathematics - Challenges for Teaching and Teacher Education. ICMI Study Series Vol. 14. Springer, 187-198.
  5. Monteiro, C. E. F., Ainley, J. (2010). The Interpretation of graphs: Reflecting on contextual aspects. Alexandria (UFSC), 3, 17 – 30.
  6. Pratt, D., Ainley, J., Kent, P., Levinson, R., Yogui, C. & Kapadia, R. (2011) Informal Inferential Reasoning as a Contextualised Risk-Based Enterprise. Mathematical Thinking and Learning
  7. Pratt, D., Johnston-Wilder, P., Ainley, J. & Mason, J. (2008) Local and global thinking in statistical inference., Statistics Education Research Journal, 7(2), 107-129.
  8. Ainley, J. & Luntley, M. (2007) Towards an articulation of expert classroom practice, Teaching and Teacher Education 23(7) 1127-1138.
  9. Ainley, J. & Luntley, M. (2007) The role of attention in expert classroom practice. Journal of Mathematics Teacher Education 10(1), 3-22.

View a full list of publications.


The central theme of my research is how children and teachers make sense of the complexity of classroom activity, particularly in mathematics and statistics. This encompasses interests in the construction of meanings, in professional practice and in social and cultural issues. A specific focus of my research is on pedagogic task design, and on the development of theory in this field.

Recently, my research interests have expanded to include Inquiry-based approaches in mathematics and science education.


SUSTAIN (Supporting Science Teacher Advancement through Inquiry) (2014-2016)

SUSTAIN is a network of 11 CPD (Continuous professional development) providers in 10 EU countries, with extensive experience in IBSE – Inquiry-based science education. It aims to develop an innovative IBSE-based approach to Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) topics for teachers and teacher educators. Three major ESD topics will be explored during this project and give rise to teaching and professional development tools and activities, workshops conferences and handbooks. The University of Leicester team (Janet Ainley, Frankie McKeon) are leading the topic group on Everyday Objects.

Fibonacci (2010-2012)

Designing, imple­menting, testing and formal­ising a process of dissem­i­na­tion in Europe of inquiry-based teaching and learning methods in science and math­e­matics in primary and secondary schools. Within this project the focus of the University of Leicester team (Tina Jarvis, Frankie McKeon, Janet Ainley) was on developing an integrated approach to Inquiry in mathematics and science.

Children's Interpretation of Graphs through Active Statistical Modelling (2012-2014)

This project, funded by the British Academy is a collaboration with Professor Dave Pratt (University of London) and Dr Dani Ben-Zvi (University of Haifa). We are exploring how two approaches to the learning and teaching of statistical thinking, Exploratory Data Analysis and Activie Graphing, might be brought together through the use of innovative software (Tinkerplots).

Purposeful Algebraic Activity (2001-04) 
Children's Understanding of Graphs in a Computer-based Pedagogy (1996/7)

These projects focus on the design of pedagogic tasks and learning environments which exploit the use of technology to support the construction of meaning. I have developed a theoretical framework for task design based on the key ideas of purpose for the learner, and the utility of mathematical ideas.

Attention and the knowledge bases of expert practice (2003-04)

A second strand of my research is concerned with the classroom practice of experienced teachers, and particularly with the development of a model of how teachers function in the moment in response to classroom events. This Arts and Humanities Research Board-funded pilot project has enabled us to develop a methodology to gather empirical evidence to support Luntley's philosophical model of how such functioning is based on attention.


As I am now semi-retired, I am not accepting any new Doctoral students.

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