With the progress of mantle convection modelling over the last decade, it now becomes possible to solve for the dynamics of the interior flow and the surface tectonics to first order. We show here that tectonic data (like surface kinematics and seafloor age distribution) and mantle convection models with plate-like behaviour can in principle be combined to reconstruct mantle convection. We present a sequential data assimilation method, based on suboptimal schemes derived from the Kalman filter, where surface velocities and seafloor age maps are not used as boundary conditions for the flow, but as data to assimilate. Two stages (a forecast followed by an analysis) are repeated sequentially to take into account data observed at different times. Whenever observations are available, an analysis infers the most probable state of the mantle at this time, considering a prior guess (supplied by the forecast) and the new observations at hand, using the classical best linear unbiased estimate. Between two observation times, the evolution of the mantle is governed by the forward model of mantle convection. This method is applied to synthetic 2-D spherical annulus mantle cases to evaluate its efficiency. We compare the reference evolutions to the estimations obtained by data assimilation. Two parameters control the behaviour of the scheme: the time between two analyses, and the amplitude of noise in the synthetic observations. Our technique proves to be efficient in retrieving temperature field evolutions provided the time between two analyses is ≲10 Myr. If the amplitude of the a priori error on the observations is large (30 per cent), our method provides a better estimate of surface tectonics than the observations, taking advantage of the information within the physics of convection.