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Maths teaching YouTube star Eddie Woo wins NSW Local Hero of the Year


15 November 2017

Eddie Woo wins NSW Local Hero of the Year.
Eddie Woo wins NSW Local Hero of the Year.

Eddie Woo (BEd (Math)(Hons), 2008) has been named 2018 NSW Local Hero of the Year.

The University of Sydney graduate was awarded the honour at a ceremony at Sydney's Museum of Contemporary Art. The Local Hero award acknowledges extraordinary contributions made by Australians in their local community.

Eddie Woo, arguably the country’s most famous teacher, has been recognised for making maths — a subject that has seen a decline in uptake at the HSC level over the last decade — accessible for thousands of students across Australia and beyond.

His YouTube channel, Wootube, which hosts videos of his Cherrybrook Tech High maths classes, has more than 100,000 subscribers and has amassed six million views.

"It’s an incredible privilege to have won this award and I hope that it will be able to increase the awareness of the wonderful work that happens in schools everyday that people don’t see,” Eddie says.

“The teaching and learning in my videos is no different to what you would experience in every other classroom around Australia. I’ve just opened a window to the world.

“Teachers work so hard to craft learning experiences and extracurricular activities for students, but these moments are often invisible. It really takes a village to raise a child and so I’m delighted to represent the teaching community and to champion the value of schools and education.”

Eddie is something of an accidental internet sensation. He recorded his first lesson five years ago, as a means of ensuring a student suffering from cancer wouldn’t fall behind in their studies. What were initially intended as weekly catch-up videos, quickly became must-watch viewing for students outside his class. Those that watched, commented. Those that commented, shared. Over the course of a few years, Eddie and Wootube had gone viral.

The popularity of his videos can be attributed to their enthusiastic DIY nature, replete with in-class student laughter and Eddie’s infectious passion—for learning, his pupils and, of course, mathematics.

“Maths is even more than just useful,” says Eddie, when describing his motivations as a teacher.

Understanding patterns and relationships is deeply satisfying, and appreciating them in an aesthetic way is food for the soul. Maths explains why a sunflower’s seeds spiral in the way they do, maths explains the sprawling shape of a river delta meeting the ocean, and maths explains why bees around the world build their honeycombs in such a perfectly hexagonal arrangement. These are ideas that enrich our lives; when we study maths, we open the door to seeing our world through new eyes”, he says.

One of his former tutors, Associate Professor Judy Anderson, first met Eddie in his third year of study.

“Eddie demonstrated enthusiasm for engaging and connecting with his young charges; he was able to share his passion for mathematics in creative and innovative ways,” says Associate Professor Anderson.

“He asked the hard questions about education and schooling and frequently expressed a desire to make a difference. We knew he would become a leader since leadership qualities were evident from a young age.”

Eddie was one of four NSW award winners. The others include UNSW physics professor Michelle Simmons, who was named 2018 NSW Australian of the Year; obstetrician Dr Catherine Hamlin (MB BS 1946 MD honoris causa 2005), named 2018 NSW Senior Australian of the Year; and 17-year-old scientist and inventor Macinley Butson, NSW Young Australian of the Year.

Jenny Barbour, CEO of the National Australia Day Council, said: "The stories of the NSW Award recipients show us the power of an individual and how one person can make a big difference - from education to medicine to scientific breakthroughs, they are all making an impact."

Eddie, along with the NSW Award winners are among 32 state and territory recipients who will compete for the four Australians of the Year titles that will be announced on 25 January 25 2018 in Canberra.