Home schooling: ‘I’m a maths lecturer – and I had to get my children to teach me’

Donna Ferguson:

A senior lecturer in the department of mathematical sciences at the University of Bath, Yates has a PhD in Maths from Oxford and is the author of The Maths of Life and Death. So when he began home schooling his son Will, five, and daughter Emmie, seven, during lockdown, he was pretty confident he already knew everything they would be expected to learn in maths.

He was wrong. “I’d never heard of a ‘bar model’ or a ‘part-whole model’. I had to get my kids to teach me.” He was shocked by how many of these different, “intimidating” methods and models primary school children are expected to use to solve basic maths problems. “I’ve never needed to use them – you don’t need to know all these different mental models to do maths,” he says.

His daughter, he says, will master doing addition one way, but then has to do several lessons to learn addition using a completely different method. “It gets her to think: ‘Oh, I actually don’t know how to do this – I thought I did, but I don’t.”