Rose Griffiths

  • Tuesday 8 May 2018
  • 5.30pm-6.30pm
  • Ken Edwards Building, Lecture Theatre 1
  • Professor Griffiths and Professor Cajkler will each present a half-hour lecture.

Working with wiggly wool: finding ways of supporting learning for children in public care

This lecture will bring together several themes from my personal and professional experience: as a teacher of mathematics; a foster carer and adoptive parent; and a researcher with a particular interest in children who find mathematics difficult.

Looked-after children are amongst the most vulnerable pupils in our education system, and governments in the UK and across the world have raised concern about the low average levels of achievement reached by children in public care. We will examine some of the things that can go wrong in their educational experience, with mathematics as the focus. For example, the barriers to each child’s progress can include a lack of recognition of the effects of previous trauma, loss and neglect. Sometimes, a school’s system of organising teaching separates the child from other children and their teachers. Poor assessment, poor teaching and the child’s own avoidance techniques may mean they are not able to engage successfully in lessons.

Using the examples of three children from three different schools, I will look at methods that can produce much better results. Linking the child’s view with action at home and in school, I will describe ways of using context, stories and plastic fish (and other equipment) to make sense of arithmetic, and we will think about pattern and games as ways of building confidence. We will look at how video can help children think about how they learn, and that they can be successful.

I will also explain the poor piece of knitting that needs unravelling – a way of thinking about a child’s knowledge in mathematics, and the challenge of putting things right.

Professor Rose Griffiths

RoseGriffiths 200 x 266.jpg

Rose Griffiths is Head of the School of Education at Leicester and a visiting professor at the University of Trondheim, Norway. She began her teaching career as a mathematics teacher in secondary schools, and has also taught in pre-school, primary, special and adult education. Rose has contributed as a member of several research and policy-making groups in the UK and Europe. She is a National Teaching Fellow, awarded by the HEA in 2009.

Rose’s major teaching and research interests are in mathematics education, including low attainment in mathematics across the 5 to 19 age range. Her strong record of publications for the mathematics classroom and for children at home has extended across more than thirty years, with over 100 titles published, including for Puffin, Cambridge, Oxford, and Pearson, both in the UK and across the world. She is one of the most-borrowed and best-selling children’s non-fiction authors in the UK. Most recently, she worked with colleagues Dr Sue Gifford and Dr Jenni Back, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, to examine ways of using manipulatives to develop children’s number sense. The resulting films, animations and book, ‘Making Numbers’, aim to help teachers find effective and enjoyable ways of teaching arithmetic.

Rose made a unique contribution to the field of childhood bereavement, working with the Childhood Bereavement Network and Leeds Animation Workshop, through a much-praised project called 'Not too young to grieve' which provides advice about supporting young children who have been bereaved. This was followed by 'Teenage Grief' for secondary schools. The DVDs and materials produced have been used to promote understanding of this issue with parents and carers, and across many professions, including with teachers, social workers, police and youth workers.

A former foster carer and then adoptive parent, Rose founded the Letterbox Club, for children in foster care, in Leicester in 2003. This has grown year by year, with major funding from the Department for Children, Schools and Families for a national pilot in 2007-08. The programme provides educational materials to children aged 3 to 13, to promote their well-being and higher engagement in reading, writing, drawing and number activities at home. Now hosted by the national charity BookTrust, in 2017 there were over 10,000 looked-after children and their foster families enrolled in the Letterbox Club across the UK, with projects in Canada and the USA, Sweden and Denmark.

Share this page:

Time and place

Please check the start time and location of any lecture you want to attend as these vary.

Campus maps


If you have any queries about any of these events, please contact