Should my child use YouTube to revise Maths?

posted on 21st August 2019

Given the rise of social media and the amount of time anyone can lose to screen time, parents are justified in having concerns as to whether children can revise maths from YouTube and other online sources. Rest assured, that using YouTube to learn, and revise maths can be a great learning tool for many reasons. However, it only works if the videos are used with active learning, just watching the videos passively will not help your child revise Maths.

What is passive and active learning?

Passive learning is when the child or anyone for that matter, is not involved in the learning process. Perhaps they are reading without really thinking and engaging in the material. Perhaps they are just listening to a lecture without being engaged in it. Or for some, perhaps they might just watch online videos on a subject. In all the examples given, the passive part is the keeping your mind passive and quiet whilst the information is coming in. Passive learning gives a valid meaning to ‘in one ear and out the other’, as nothing is being processed and thought about, the information becomes easily forgettable.  Just watching online Maths videos will not be a learning aid. For most children they will just recognise the topic, some may even feel they can do that topic after watching a demonstration. This is the deception of passive learning, recognising gets easily mistaken for knowing. 80% of students will not be able to apply Maths knowledge to similar questions 24 hrs after passively watching an online video.

Active learning is engaging in what you are learning. Thinking about, processing, doing and practising are all types of active learning. It’s moving away from the idea of letting all the information come to you. You must meet the information halfway and interact with it. It becomes easier to remember and to be able to apply what we have learnt if we have learnt it actively. Benjamin Franklin famously said, ‘Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I will remember. Involve me and I learn.’

So, regarding YouTube or online videos, asking children to actively learn would be asking them to do the following.

  • Watching the video focusing on all the stages of the maths problem/explanation.
  • Pausing the video if something wasn’t clear, or if you found yourself drifting off.
  • Watching the video again but pausing when a question comes up. See if you can do them with all the working out.
  • If you can’t repeat what was done, watch the video again and notice the step you missed out
  • Once you can repeat it, find another video on the same topic and pause it when you see the question.
  • Have a go at that question, can you apply what you learnt from the previous video?

If you can’t, watch what the presenter does, see the steps you missed out and have another go. Keep repeating this process.

Go away for a while, do something else, then come back later or the next day and see if you can still do those types of questions.


Why is maths a particularly good subject to learn from online videos?

The best way to learn maths is to have immediate feedback whilst you are doing it. It’s common for children just to do past papers when they are revising, or to do exercises from a book, but how do they know if they are doing it right? If they self-mark with just the answers, and they see they got a question wrong, how do they know where they went wrong?

The beauty of online maths videos is that the child can practise a question by pausing a video, then get immediate feedback to see if they have got the question right by pressing play. More importantly, they can see where they went wrong, they get to focus on the inner working of the question rather than focusing on right or wrongness. The seeing ‘inside’ where they went wrong is the learning part, adjusting the way they approached the question – ironing out the creases. Just a few more times repeating this process on other videos on the same topic helps work the maths into the long-term memory.


How would someone go about finding the videos they need?

In the search bar on YouTube, you need to type in the maths topic. Looking at a textbook, or the title of the work set that day. For example, if your child had been learning trigonometry using sin cos and tan, you would type those words into the search bar. I would also recommend you type in the level, for example GCSE (foundation/higher) or A level and click on the search button. You will find hundreds of online lessons on that topic.  Just work through the videos until you don’t need to anymore.

For GCSE exam practise and revision, you would type in ‘Maths past paper 9-1’  adding  foundation or higher depending on which exam is being taken. You will see all the past papers relevant to that level. Then work through each question. The more questions that can be done across all the papers means the maths topic will be practised in all the different ways it can be examined.

Just remember, some presenters are going to explain things at depth and slower and some presenters will do it very quickly and succinctly. Children will have a preference according to how they process visual and auditory information. Just remember that videos can be fast forwarded until the question comes up or replayed if something was missed.


How long should a child spend doing maths using YouTube?

When first starting out, 15 minutes of concentration is enough. Have a break for 10-20 minutes then come back to it. When children start to achieve with maths, it’s common for them to get a huge sense of achievement from it, especially if they found it difficult before. As this achievement filters into self-esteem it’s common to be able to stay working through the videos for longer.  If active learning is taking place, working on the videos for longer can help to build up the stamina for doing an exam for over an hour. It’s just important to go gentle at first.


Are there any disadvantages to using online videos for learning maths?

One huge drawback to learning online is it is one directional. That is, it’s from the computer to the child only. It’s up to the child to be active in making sense of what is coming to them. However, children cannot ask any questions, or cannot ask for something to be explained a different way. The presenter cannot see if a child is struggling, and nothing can be altered.  Learning online is not as good as face to face tuition.

Learning online isn’t for every child. Not right away anyway. Some children have low resilience levels, in that case as soon as they perceive they got something wrong, or can’t follow what’s being said, they fall into a hopeless place and either get angry or withdraw. For these children, they will need 1:1 help and support to build up their resilience  to maths and gain a bit of confidence. However once that resilience and confidence is in place, most children can use online tuition in-between types of human support.


Subscribe to our newsletter



Related Articles

Read more

How is Westcountry Tuition…

Read more

Does Online Tutoring Really Work?

Read more

We Have Moved

Read more

Does Spelling Really Matter?