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Thursday, December 17, 2015

Colin Hegarty is the maths teacher on a mission to make calculus cool

Katie Law meets a teacher on a mission - Forget everything you thought you know about mathematics - Colin Hegarty's revolutionary online tutorials are winning awards and making calculus cool. 

Maths teacher Colin Hegarty photographed at his home.
Colin Hegarty opens the front door of his modest Ruislip home to greet me. In his neat, navy-blue suit, pale- blue shirt and a maroon tie you might easily mistake him for a Conservative councillor, but the 34-year-old is one of the country’s top maths teachers, who has just been nominated for the $1 million (£660,000) Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize.

Hegarty is one of 50 whittled down from 8,000 entrants, chosen for his pioneering online maths website The final judging of what’s known as “the Nobel Prize of teaching” takes place in Dubai next March. “I’m not thinking about it at the moment; to be honest the news came as a bit of a shock,” he says, showing me upstairs to his study where a large bare whiteboard dominates the small room.

HegartyMaths Intro

By day, Hegarty teaches GCSE and  A-level maths at Preston Manor School, a comprehensive in Wembley; by night he works on his website, which is based on the Khan Academy, an American online teaching platform set up by ex-hedge-fund entrepreneur Salman Khan. Hegarty has already won several prizes for it, including a Pearson Teaching Award, which David Cameron presented to him last year.

“I started the site three-and-a-half years ago after one of my Year 13 students at my previous school told me his father was terminally ill and he’d have to miss a term. He asked, ‘What am I going to do to keep up with my studies?’ He was that type of boy. I thought, if I want to fix something in my house I’d look it up on YouTube.

“So I had the motivation to do exactly that for this boy and I put the whole  A-level course up online. Instead of standing in front of the class and talking, I’d record myself on video. All the children in the class could use it and their homework would be to watch it in preparation for the next lesson. We got the best A-level results ever in that school and that boy is studying engineering now.”

Since then Hegarty has uploaded more than 1,500 free “how-to” videos onto YouTube. The topics cover the majority of the GCSE and A-level syllabuses and have been viewed more than 5.5 million times. “Children all over the country — and the world — are using these resources.”

Hegarty’s introduction to the video Five Top Tips to Smash GCSE Maths begins with a vigorous Mr Motivator-style pep talk: “The most important tip is to believe in yourself. You can do it if you work hard and you’re dedicated. David Beckham’s not a success in sport and a rich man because he’s lazy; it’s because he worked hard. He’s not naturally talented; he worked hard… maths is the same. You work hard; you’re gonna do well.” 
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Additional resources  

Take a closer look at HegartyMaths website.

About HegartyMaths
"In 2011, inspired by Khan Academy we decided to experiment with the making of maths videos for our pupils."

Source: Evening Standard and HEGARTYMATHS channel (YouTube)