John Corbett, Maths Teacher at Writhlington Academy Trust, shares his inspirational project which aims to raise attainment for children in maths. John won the 2016 Let Teachers SHINE competition, which provided funding for the project.
We’ve all heard of having your five a day of fruit and vegetables, but how about your five a day of maths? This is just one of the concepts behind my project Corbettmaths which began in 2012 as a place to share videos in my own class and has since evolved into a hub of resources to help students reinforce their maths learning.
My inspiration for the project unfolded as we had an open plan area in our school - with big classes and no walls, and it often became difficult for students to hear me. With many students using tablet devices, I decided to share video tutorials with them which they could then use to listen back to the lessons more clearly.
As we fast forward four years, my website now provides hundreds of videos, worksheets, conundrums and the popular five a day, which refers to taking five maths questions every day of the year at varying difficulty levels.
With a desire to further expand these resources, the Let Teachers SHINE competition was the perfect opportunity for me to seek the funding I needed to provide free support for disadvantaged students learning maths. In particular, this will allow me to develop the five a day section for primary schools, create three eBooks and also arrange school visits to demonstrate first-hand the benefits of these resources.
Before I decided to enter for the Let Teachers SHINE funding, it was important to get feedback from schools on the website and resources available. I sent out a short survey and within just a couple of days, I had responses from teachers in 700 different schools giving me testimonials on how the project has helped their students. It was this overwhelming response which gave me the vision to expand the resources.
As many teachers know, one of the biggest challenges is managing time. With an average day including teaching, marking and planning for the next day, by the time I came home from school, there would only be a few hours left in the day for me to work on the website. It’s why I’m grateful that my school has been really supportive in giving me the opportunity to arrange extra cover to dedicate six weeks of solid work on the project before the end of the summer term. Combined with the summer holidays, I’ve been able to prepare these resources in 12 weeks ready for September.
Getting your five a day
One of the most popular areas of the website is the five a day questions. The idea for this stems from my own experiences as a teacher, where I like to start every lesson with a quick warm-up activity. I wanted to create a simple revision format for GCSEs that teachers could bring into their own classroom. Since it’s launched, I’ve had schools from all over the country and as far as Nepal sending me photos displaying the questions on revision boards, promoting the importance of early revision.
The funding will now help me to create a primary school version to be ready in time for the new school year. One of the big focuses for schools and the government is to close the gap between children who are receiving pupil premium funding and those who aren’t, and by giving students of an even younger age the opportunity to practice their maths skills regularly, hopefully it can help to achieve that.
The recent Key Stage 2 SATs tests, where only 53% of year 6 children passed in reading, writing and maths, show that there’s a real challenge ahead for both students and teachers. Although there have been major changes, this was a big drop from 80% last year and made me think about the availability of affordable textbooks.
Not every school will have the best resources and facilities available, while revision guides can be expensive for students to afford. As a result, I’ve spent a lot of the summer working on creating three revision eBooks to provide high quality support. No matter who you are or where you are, as long as you have a device that can access the internet, you’ll be able to download these for free.
Since I’ve been working on them, I’ve also seen conversations online between teachers asking which textbooks they are using for the new GCSEs. One of them answered that they are waiting for Corbettmaths! It’s nice to know that you’re working on something that people value and are looking forward to being completed, even if at the same time it puts the pressure back on.