Flipping Classrooms and Hegartymaths

17th October, 2013

For many years, maths lessons have run in roughly the same way: the teacher stands at the blackboard, giving a mini-lecture on some mathematical topic or technique, introducing the idea, outlining the theory, and then running through an example or two. The students would sit patiently (or not), taking notes (or not), so that at the end of the day they will be able to tackle some exercises on the same subject as homework… or not.

As the years have rolled by, the blackboard may have been replaced by a whiteboard, and then by a smartboard, but otherwise the formula has remained by and large the same: theory in the classroom followed by exercises for homework.

The idea of “flipping” the classroom, is to reverse this process. The insight is that in the age of youtube, today’s students can perfectly well take in the lectury bit at home — with the added advantage of being able to pause, rewind, and rewatch in their own time. This leaves lesson-time free for practice, providing the teacher with more time to go around talking to students individually or in groups, meaning more opportunities to help those who are struggling or to supply extra challenges to those who need stretching.

I have no experience of this method myself — all the same it immediately appeals to me as a way in which technology may really be able to improve the teaching and learning experience, rather than just adding bells and whistles. One person who is convinced by this new approach is Colin Hegarty, an old friend of mine from university, who I’m delighted to say has returned to the world of maths after a few years in finance, and is now expertly flipping classrooms in North London.

Even if you don’t have the good fortune to be one of Mr Hegarty’s students, you can still peruse the 611 (!) videos that he and his colleague Brian Arnold have created for this purpose, all of which are freely available on Hegartymaths, or on youtube. Judging by the 800,000 odd views their videos have gathered, it’s not only their own pupils who are benefiting from these experiments in flipping.

As a sample I’m embedding one in which Colin talks through the Chinese postman problem:


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