Colin Hegarty: ‘You are never bad at maths until the moment you give up trying’

The Times is has in-depth interview with Colin Hegarty, the maths teacher who was this week shortlisted for a $1 million international teaching prize.

The paper describes how Mr Hegarty first got into creating his maths videos when a student was missing classes to look after a terminally ill parent and didn’t want to miss out. From there he created a YouTube channel and encouraged his class to watch the videos in their own time before using what they had learnt in class.

He is quoted:

“The whole class would come in every day, all their notes done, and we’d do maths straight away. I’d start the lesson saying, ‘Anything in that video I made a mistake on or you didn’t get? Alright. Go for it’.”

The paper says these students went on to get the best maths exam results in the school’s history and the videos went viral, now being watched by 5,000 children a day in more than 200 countries.

Colin Hegarty goes on to express frustration with attitudes towards maths in this country and says:

“We can’t be bad at maths because we’re a very innovative nation and we’re extremely good at technology and finance. The problem is that we’re telling ourselves the story that we’re bad at maths.”

Heagarty himself switched into teaching after an earlier career in accountancy and a degree at Oxford (he was the first in his family to go to university).

He has much to say on the importance of maths and the issues faced in teaching it, and is further quoted:

“If you read about successful people, they talk about two things: work ethic and how they deal with failure. And a lot of them look at failure as an opportunity to learn something. So if, instead of giving up and saying, ‘The reason I got it wrong is because of me, because I can’t do maths’, you say, ‘Well, I failed but it’s fine. How can I stop that from happening again?’ you stop the vicious cycle. You’re never bad at maths until the moment you’ve stopped trying.”

More at: Colin Hegarty: ‘You are never bad at maths until the moment you give up trying’ (subscription may be required)


Update: Alternatively, in the Guardian: Meet the internet maths guru who could become the next million-dollar teacher


Just a few snippets from a really interesting interview that’s well worth reading in full if you have access to the Times.

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Categories: Teaching.


  1. andylutwyche

    SchoolsImprove Couldn’t agree more with everything hegartymaths says regarding attitudes towards maths. The issue is not helped by media

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