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Top-Top Set Maths

The Top-Top Set Maths project has been running since 2016, and is currently running a pilot in 32 classes across eight secondary schools.

The project encourages schools to create a Top-Top Set, in addition to their standard setting, to cater for the top ~10% of students.

The aim of the pilot is to maximise the potential of ambitious students (starting in Year 7), by nurturing and challenging them until the end of Key Stage 4. Students involved in the project will be developing a set of mathematical skills and a passion for the subject that will enable them to earn places on STEM degree courses at the best universities.

The pilot has helped us learn a lot about what works well with regards to stretching the most dedicated and talented young mathematical minds. Hence, we have had a number of new schools expressing interest in becoming part of the project. Although we are not looking to expand currently, we are happy to share some advice based on our experience of establishing top-top sets:

1) Most schools split their year group in half, and then divide each half into sets based on ability, running from 1 to 4 in one half, and from 1 to 4 in the other half. Therefore, the brightest students in the year are split between two equal top sets. In our experience, better results can be achieved if, instead, the whole year is split into ability groups running from 1 to 8. This way, set 1 (the ‘top’ set) contains all of the most dedicated and talented maths students, effectively creating a top-top set within your own school.

2) While we are not expanding our Top-Top Set Maths Project, we are offering free maths tutorials to the best young mathematicians from non-selective state schools, as part of our Maths Masterclass Tutorials programme. Teachers can nominate their best students to become part of these free weekly lessons by visiting:

3) Each week, we release a new worksheet of puzzles, problems and maths enrichment materials, as part of our Parallel website. These worksheets are available for years 7 – 11, and student’s answers are automatically scored, with their results available for their teachers to keep track of. More than 5,000 students take part each week, and we have received excellent feedback. Participation in Parallel is mandatory for schools in our Top-Top Set Maths Project, and we believe it can be very beneficial for other schools. The key is to ensure that a few students take part every week through the school year, rather than signing up a whole class, who then lose interest after a few weeks. You can find out more about Parallel here:

The Top-Top Set Maths project was started by author Simon Singh and the charity Good Thinking.

We are very grateful to our donors – John Lyon’s Charity, Winton Philanthropies, London Mathematical Society and Emmanuel College (Cambridge University) – for their generous support.

2017/18 Top-Top Set Maths Results

Over the last 2 years, we have had 4 schools taking part in the Top-Top Set Maths Project. In 2016/17 these schools ran a Year 7 class, which grew into a Y8 class for 2017/18, and a new Y7 class joined. One way to measure the impact of the Top-Top Set Maths Project (TTSMP) is …

2018-2019 UKMT Intermediate Maths Challenge Results

The Top-Top Set Maths Project aims to stretch good maths students by establishing top-top sets that are more challenging than a standard top set. This year, we had 13 schools running top-top sets in Year 7, 6 schools running top-top sets in Year 8 and 3 schools running top-top sets in Year 9. How do …

How to run Top-Top Set Maths at your school

We currently have 8 schools running top-top sets in England, and we are not planning to expand the pilot further. However, we would encourage schools to set up and run their own top-top sets. For example, if your school has two bands, and therefore two top sets, then one approach would be to make one …

Introduction to The Top-Top Set

In the past, young mathematicians were able to excel by attending grammar schools and being stretched via O and A levels. This 1960s system was far from perfect, but it created large numbers of talented STEM candidates. The current system fails in this respect, because the maths GCSE does not challenge and stretch the most …

Top-Top Set Maths Project Donors

The Top-Top Set Maths Project is a highly cost-effective way of nurturing mathematics excellence across the UK, but schools still require a subsidy. For the first two years of the project, while evidence was still being gathered, Good Thinking covered the entire cost of the project. Indeed, in our third year, Good Thinking continues to …