How Maths Works is published and maintained by me(!), Rob Porteous, a full time primary teacher Maths specialist living and working in Edinburgh.

I began developing the site after a couple of years spent working with support groups of Primary 4 and Primary 5 pupils, which showed me that it was the language of Maths that was the major block for the children.  I had made a lot of use of practical equipment to help my pupils to understand key concepts in fractions and measurement, and also had them working regularly on the Learning Wall on my Maths Investigations website.  But, surprisingly, the children began clamouring for worksheets and, in particular, ‘booklets’ of sheets that they could work through!

I experimented with a number of formats and eventually came up with the idea of creating worksheets that, where possible, were independent of numbers, but gave the children the correct vocabulary for talking about the concepts they were learning.  This allowed for effective self-differentiation to meet the needs of the different levels within the group.  I had the children working in groups, deciding on their own numbers for the questions to suit their level, and then using our CEDRIC philosophy and the 333 approach to mark their own work. I had to keep reminding myself that these were the support group pupils!

Next came the National lockdown in the Spring of 2020 and, as a school, we hit upon using a Google slide template to share the weekly tasks with our pupils.  We attached worksheets to these and then created short explanatory videos to introduce them.  It was a resounding success.  The children loved the colourful engaging format, and the parents were happy too!

The autumn of 2020 saw us back in school but, because of COVID, working with our pupils in form classes rather than groups.  It quickly became apparent that, despite the teachers differentiating masterfully in their classes, we still needed something extra to challenge the most capable pupils.  What would happen, I wondered, if I created slide shows with videos to explain booklets of worksheets made in the same open-ended style as the ones I had created the previous year?

I tried out the idea on a self-selected group of pupils who wanted the extra challenge.  It worked a treat, and, with no introduction from me and simply a link to the slide deck, the pupils (again Primary 5) set about first investigating negative coordinates and transformation of shapes (a topic not normally taught until Secondary School) and then exploring turning and angles.  An enthusiastic little group of pupils turned up at my office at the end of each week and proudly showed me what they had discovered.

Feedback from the pupils told me that I had actually made far too many videos for them – good news for me, as they took a while to create, and I determined to create more.

Lockdown hit again in January and put further development of the idea on hold because, as those of you who have delivered virtual teaching through lockdown will know, it is far more demanding than normal teaching.  But as I write this over the February half term, I am confident, that, with the wealth of material I have already created, there is plenty to fill a website and to enthuse children in many other places to become passionate about Maths.

The ‘Coordinates’ and ‘Turning and Angles’ resources are uploaded and ready to go. Next stop ‘Fractions’.

Rob Porteous

8 February 2021

About the Author

I graduated from Cambridge University with a BA in Mathematics in June 1983 and trained as a primary school teacher at Moray House College in Edinburgh.

I taught at a variety of primary schools in the UK and abroad before taking up a post as Maths teacher and ICT co-ordinator at the Dolphin School in Berkshire in 1996. During my three years at the Dolphin School I began to experiment with peer tutoring, giving special responsibility to some of my pupils for teaching computer skills to their classmates. I also began experimenting with innovative approaches to Maths teaching, using problem-based contexts for learning.

From 1999-2007, I was Curriculum Leader and then Deputy Head (Learning Opportunities) at St George’s School for Girls in Edinburgh, where my particular remit was to work with Junior School staff to develop their confidence and skill in teaching ICT and Mathematics.

I am currently Deputy Head (Learning and Teaching) at George Watson’s College Junior School in Edinburgh.

I have undertaken action research into peer tutoring, published by the Scottish Council for Research in Education, and have given presentations to groups of teachers in various parts of the UK on both ICT and Maths. I have, for many years, tutored pupils in Maths from Primary school age through to A-level.

My driving purpose is to encourage pupils to take greater responsibility for their own learning, and to encourage their teachers to allow them to!


My other Maths website, developed between 2010 and 2020 for Primary children and their parents, is Maths Investigations.  We make extensive use of this in my school, particularly the Learning Wall, which is really helpful for identifying the gaps in children’s learning and allowing them to fill them and consolidate their core number skills independently of the teacher.  Do take a look!