Australia's "most famous maths teacher" recognised for inspiring a generation of learners

26 April 2017

Eddie Woo BEd(Sec:Math)(Hons), BSc '08 is a winner of the 2017 University of Sydney Young Alumni Award for Outstanding Achievement

Described by the Sydney Morning Herald as "arguably the country's most famous maths teacher," Eddie Woo is a self-made ambassador for mathematics.

His YouTube channel, WooTube, has amassed more than 3 million views and he's inspiring a generation of learners.

In 2012, motivated by a student who was too sick to attend class, Eddie began filming his lessons. While Eddie himself was in high school, his mother was diagnosed with cancer and its devastating impact meant he too struggled at school, giving him the strong sense of empathy with his students that underpins WooTube.

Eddie's videos have attracted more than 35,000 subscribers, meaning he is now teaching thousands of students around the world every day. The single-shot videos, first recorded on a smartphone and now on an iPad, aren't revolutionary pieces of videography.

It's Eddie's teaching style that has impact. He explains complicated mathematical theories in a big-picture style that his students can understand.

One video starts with an explanation of the word 'calculus' - to calculate. It comes from the Latin for 'small pebble', the original counting tool and the basis of the abacus.

"Understanding mathematics offers a greater appreciation for what's happening around you," Eddie says.

"When you look at a rainbow across the sky, you see a semi-circle. Why is that? There's a beautiful piece of geometry as to why it's a semi-circle - well actually it's a circle if you're looking at it from the sky - when you understand the conspiracy of a million raindrops turning into a perfectly circular rainbow-coloured object that you couldn't believe exists unless you'd seen it with your own eyes, that's really special."

Eddie believes his studies at the University of Sydney have shaped his career, encouraging him to become part of a community of learners and equipping him with skills to approach his work in a thoughtful, critical and refined manner.

Through "passionate conversations" he learned not just what to think, but how.

"Encountering people whose opinions and perspectives and values were different to mine, yet realising we're all in this education game together," he says.

Awarded the 2015 Premier's Prize for Innovation in Science and Mathematics Education in NSW and the 2016 National Choose Maths Teacher Excellence Award, Eddie is also an active mentor beyond the classroom.

Working with the University's Compass program, he supports students from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and low socio-economic communities to participate in higher education.

In 2015-16 he was elected to a position on the NSW Mathematical Association executive, allowing him to share his expertise both in curriculum and pedagogy. His dedication to his students and the practice of teaching is exceptional.

"The future of Australia's education system would be far brighter if there was an Eddie in every high school," says Gary Johnson, Principal of Cherrybrook Technology High School in Sydney's north-west where Eddie is Head Teacher of Mathematics.

Eddie has three young children he describes as "his world". He is young, bright and capable, and his career could take him anywhere, but teaching holds his heart.

"There's such an opportunity to help motivate young people for the rest of their lives," he says.

"Students are waiting for someone to enter their story to add light and hope."

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