Your creativity and ingenuity has given hope and support to millions of children throughout the world.
When he first became a teacher, Jamie Frost set up a website to share his thoughts and ideas. Eight years on, Dr Frost Maths has developed into an internationally acclaimed tuition platform, making maths fun for millions of children all over the world.
Last week, Jamie was named Covid Hero at the Global Teacher Prize, winning $45,000 in recognition of the impact made during lockdown by drfrostmaths.com.
He was shortlisted as one of 10 finalists for the overall $1 million Global Teacher Prize award, which was presented to Ranjitsinh Disale, a primary school teacher from India.
The ten had been chosen from more than 12,000 nominations from over 140 countries.
In a video message, Prime Minister Boris Johnson told Jamie, “Your creativity and ingenuity has given hope and support to millions of children throughout the world.
“It’s been incredible to see how teachers have adapted to home learning and used technology to continue with lessons throughout the pandemic. You don’t just represent the heroic teachers in the United Kingdom, but also across the whole world.”
Jamie, a former investment banker, runs the website in his spare time as he remains a teacher at Tiffin School. And Alastair Ingall, Deputy Headmaster at Tiffin, says its “pretty amazing” that Jamie manages to combine his work on the website with a fulltime teaching position.
“Dr Frost Maths has enabled thousands of schools across the world to cope with Covid, to keep going, to keep teaching,” he adds. “Some teachers have actually found that some things they are actually able to do far more effectively. The combination of Dr Frost Maths and Covid, I think, has changed the way many people will teach maths forever.”
“I think why it’s been so successful since the pandemic began is because it was perfectly suited for the lockdown,” Jamie says.
“It’s all-inclusive. Every aspect is covered. I have all the teaching resources for classrooms, including PowerPoint slides covering the whole syllabus, and videos, which teachers can point their students towards if that can’t teach a lesson. And then there’s the fact that they can set students the work online and assess how they’re doing.
“It’s also fully aligned to the UK curriculum because I have licences with every UK exam board.”
The website also allows teachers to create worksheets that can be presented to students in an interactive format or exported to Word.
And before Covid arrived, Jamie had been working on a new feature that proved ideally suited for lockdown – a virtual whiteboard which allows students to add annotations to questions, which can be monitored in real time by their teachers.
“You can imagine how useful all of that is in remote lessons,” Jamie says.
In the early days of the website, Jamie received innovation funding from SHINE which helped him to scale up his platform.
“The site started eight years ago, when I started teaching. It was initially a blog where I’d post my thoughts and reflections on my teaching and post my resources,” explains Jamie.
“Because I was making lots and lots of new resources, I got rid of the blog and it became a repository of my resources.
“Then those resources started to become quite popular and that’s when someone in my school told me about the SHINE grant.
“That’s when I had the idea of an online, interactive platform. I know many people have done it before, but I wanted my own take on it, and there are lots of unique features in mine.
“So I applied for that grant and I managed to get the maximum, which was £10,000.
“That’s when I met Gaetan Dupont-Panon, who manages the question database, and five years on he still very much involved.
“I had that year of funding from the SHINE Trust, which was really useful in getting me started.
“I trialled it with my school and a few others over the course of the year, gradually developing the site, and it’s gradually grown since then.
“It’s now completely different to when it started.
“The site has grown so ridiculously. Take a site like Mangahigh. They have over £1m in income a year and over twenty staff and I have considerably more traffic than they do. And that’s with two full-time teachers working on it on the side.
“And it’s still growing extremely rapidly. Over the last five years, on average I’ve had 190 per cent growth in traffic every year. So, every single year, my traffic has tripled compared to the previous year.”
During lockdown, millions of students flocked to the site, from all over the world. Amazon stepped in to offer free hosting during school closures.
Now lockdown has ended, the web giant has agreed to continue providing free hosting. In return, Jamie is producing worksheets for Amazon’s Maths4All programme, which offers free maths resources for schools.
For Jamie, it is important that Dr Frost Maths remains free for all schools and students
“I just didn’t want to go in that direction,” he says. “I didn’t want to see it as a money-making thing. I have money from other sources, and I have a comfortable living.”
But he admits he cannot continue to run the platform as he has been up until now.
“It’s so much work and I work a 90-hour week at present, and I can’t really sustain that,” he says.
“And I don’t want to give up my teaching job – this is still an on-the-side endeavour.”
At present the site makes some revenue from advertising and is just about self-sufficient.
I had that year of funding from the SHINE Trust, which was really useful in getting me started.
But to ensure its future, in the coming months, Jamie plans to turn his enterprise into a charity, which will allow him to attract new funding and also open up other new opportunities.
“That seems to be the next logical step,” he says. “I already have some trustees lined up.”
Jamie also hopes to spend some of his Global Teacher Prize winnings on expanding into new schools – particularly overseas – and he hopes to sign licenses with other exam bodies in these new territories.
“The product’s already there. There’s not any big plan for new features next year because everything was recoded this year.
“It doesn’t require a lot of new changes, other than new content, so it’s really just a case of expanding the questions database and having exam questions from international exam syllabi.”
Since winning the prize, Jamie has been swamped with requests for media interviews.
He is also set to work with the Department for Education because, “as of last week, I’m quite well known to the government now.”
He adds, “It’s going to be an interesting year. Who knows what opportunities winning this prize is going to bring, but it’s quite exciting.”
Having been a previous recipient of SHINE funding, Jamie says he would encourage teachers to apply for Let Teachers SHINE funding for their own projects.
“I would absolutely encourage teachers to apply. If they’ve got a good idea then, absolutely, they should apply for this money and see where their idea goes.
“My advice would be to have a clear intention of how that money’s going to be spent. The reason a lot of educational projects fail is because they don’t get in the right people, or the right expertise. For example, if you’re making some kind of web platform, you need a very coded program and if the execution is wrong, it’s never going to go anywhere because it’s competing in a crowded marketplace. I think it’s getting in the right people with the right expertise and using the money for that purpose, I think would be a practical piece of advice.
“Also, before you apply, really think about the minutiae of how you want your idea to pan out. The abstract has to become practical. Teachers really have to think about exactly what they have in mind and then from that get the right people on board. I think that’s the most important thing if their idea is to be a success.”