According to OECD international testing, Australian students are lagging seriously behind their peers in other developed countries when it comes to mathematics.
But one man is determined to change all that.
Arguably the most famous maths teacher in Australia, Eddie Woo has become an internet sensation.
He set up his freely accessible website “Wootube” to help a student who had cancer. But as Mr Woo quickly found, all of his other pupils wanted a piece of it too.
“Wootube” now has more than 38,000 subscribers, and has attracted more than 3.7 million views worldwide.
“I did some rough back of the envelope calculations, as a maths teacher would, and if you add it up, that’s eleven million minutes of people sitting there watching me run around in front of my whiteboard explaining concepts to my classes, which is just mind-boggling!” – Eddie Woo, co-head Mathematics, Cherrybrook Technology High School.
From Cherrybrook in Sydney to Cobar in western New South Wales and beyond, Eddie Woo personifies the term “the power of one".
“He sucked me in. I don’t wanna say it, but he sucked me into maths.” - Emily Shakespear, Cherrybrook Technology High School student
“It’s difficult to understand how someone in Sydney can influence thousands of people across the whole country.” – Owen Potter, Cobar High School student
“Here’s innovation within teaching.” - David Gonski, businessman, and author of the Gonski report into education reform.
But Eddie Woo wasn’t always going to be a teacher, let alone a maths teacher. He didn’t even like maths at school.
“The subjects I chose (at school) were heavily weighted in the humanities, which is somewhat unusual for a Southeast Asian migrant growing up in Australia.” – Eddie Woo
Eddie Woo’s parents migrated to Australia in the 1970s. They had high expectations for their youngest child, a student at NSW’s top selective school James Ruse Agricultural High School.
“My mum expected my brother to study something quite typical of Asian families, something like law.” - Kylie Woo, Eddie’s sister
“For Eddie to pursue teaching rather than … law or medicine, which he potentially could have done, was kind of like a slap in the face (to his parents).” - Michelle Woo, Eddie’s wife
“Certainly Eddie could’ve done any of those things (like medicine, or law), and earnt a lot of money, but he chose to become a teacher.” Lisle Brown, Eddie’s mentor and former teacher
“Eddie stuck to his guns. He felt this need to pay back to society.” - Kevin Woo, Eddie’s brother
Eddie Woo’s determination to help students was partially born out of racism and bullying he experienced as one of only a few children of Asian background in his suburban Sydney primary school in the early 90s.
“There are definitely parts of my upbringing and the difficulties that I had at school that make me want to take those students who I can see are having difficulty… (and help them) come out of that experience.” - Eddie Woo
A recently released report from the OECD Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), which tests 15-year-old students, revealed that Australia ranked only 25th of 72 participating countries in mathematics, with Australian students some 28 months behind their peers in top-ranked Singapore.
With a chronic shortage of maths teachers to address the problem, the nation is at risk of slipping even further.
But Eddie Woo’s one-man mission to turn mathematics’ poor image around via the internet has gone viral and attracted strong supporters.
“There is no doubt that Eddie is conquering any fears of mathematics, making it something that we can all aspire to, and allowing it to be the brain matter, the fodder for the future.” - David Gonski.
“We’d love to clone Eddie.” - Gary Johnson, Principal at Cherrybrook Technology High School