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SMILE mathematics 1972-1990: a case of teacher-led curriculum change

Learning in classroom


Dr Gill Adams, Professor Hilary Povey

Project date


A study of the SMILE project (Secondary Mathematics Independent Learning Experience) - opportunities for democracy and autonomy

In this project Gill Adams and Hilary Povey aimed to record an historical example of teacher-led curriculum change in mathematics education in England and to analyse the social, political and cultural circumstances in which such teacher autonomy becomes possible. Using a narrative approach they recorded and analysed in-depth group conversations with teachers involved in the SMILE mathematics curriculum project, examining the opportunities that SMILE afforded for democratic professionalism. They explored the contrast between this and the current dominant discourse of managerialism and performativity.

The project was funded by a BA/Leverhulme small research grant and led by Hilary Povey. The study began an archive of contemporaneous and recent accounts, creating a public web-based resource. Such a resource is available for current teachers and teacher educators to help them re-imagine their professional selves.

Please visit the SmileMaths website to find out more.


British Academy / Leverhulme Trust

Document links

  • Adams, Gill & Povey, Hilary (2018) ‘Now there’s everything to stop you’: teacher autonomy in performative times. In: M. Jurdak. & R. Vithal. (Eds.) Socio-political dimensions of mathematics education: voices from margin to mainstream. ICME Springer.

  • Povey, Hilary & Adams, Gill (2018) Possibilities for mathematics education? Aphoristic fragments from the past. [Special issue]. The Mathematics Enthusiast (TME), 15, 1-2, 159-177.

  • Povey, Hilary & Adams, Gill (2017) Thinking forward: using stories from the recent past in mathematics education in England. Proceedings of 9th International Conference of Mathematics Education and Society (MES) Conference, Volos, Greece, April 2017.

  • Povey, Hilary & Adams, Gill with Everley, Rosie (2017) “Its influence taints all”: urban mathematics teachers resisting performativity through engagement with the past. Journal for Urban Mathematics Education (JUME), 10 (2), 52-65

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