Sorry, I should have split these up and replied to each one individually, but I'm not entirely sure how to do it....a little help, anyone? I take your point about your daughter's situation, but you're still talking about a 'task' that has to be completed. If everyone has the same activities to do, and they are well designed, then each child - or group - can work at a different pace if necessary. What you're talking about sounds suspiciously like a worksheet-type activity where you start at (a) and finish when you get to (b). And the fact that your daughter isn't 'finishing' makes me wonder if she's working alone. If not, what are the rest of her group doing? Why aren't they involving her; insisting that she pulls her weight? In any case, you've admitted that there was very little differentiation - this is the problem, not the lack of ability grouping. As far as teaching formal algorithms is concerned - yes, I've covered a lesson where we ended up doing nothing but column subtraction, because there was a problem with the planned activity and I felt the children needed practice at it. But I didn't put them into ability groups to do it! They sat right where they were, and I moved around the classroom and helped them. Or children who could do it went and helped those who were having difficulty. I don't quite see your point about the project thing (sorry, brain has run out of suitable nouns...). Yes, it takes planning. But that's part of it. The children generate an idea, the teacher skilfully incorporates learning objectives, and over time the whole thing comes together. So if you've decided to make badges for Red Nose Day, for example, there will be quantities to work out - number of badges to make, amount of materials required, cost of materials, time taken to produce them. If that's not enough you add in something else - a cake sale is a cliche, i know, but it does the trick. It doesn't even have to be something that really happens - but it's based on reality, which is more than can be said for most 'real-life' problems in textbooks, or even the ones about floor tiles and garden fences that teachers dream up. Surely it's not beyond the capabilities of a good teacher to work out how various children in the class can meet their targets by taking part in activities which involve measuring, or multiplication, or shape, or estimating, or angles, or anything else to do with the sort of maths that does in fact take place every day in the real world. Knowing where each child is and planning for them to learn effectively is differentiation. Shoving them into groups and giving them second-rate activities to make it easier for Teacher is exclusion. I'm regularly surprised at teachers who stay at the front of the classroom and don't ever go and look at what the children are doing; I suppose that if you've already decided what they're capable of, and given them worksheets to match those prejudices, there's no need to shift your bum and listen to their thoughts. Or even expect them to have thoughts!