‘Woo’ing Students into Mathematics

“Being a teacher gives me the opportunity to see and saviour the very best of what Australia really is, I get to see students dream what one day they might become and achieve.” Eddie Woo


2018 Australian of the Year Local Hero, Eddie Woo. Image credit: ABC

It has truly been a milestone few weeks for young Australian Mathematics teacher, Eddie Woo. Recently announced as the 2018 Australian of the Year Local Hero, Eddie provided an inspiring Australia Day Address revealing his passion and dedication to serve and help the community. Woo has also been named a Top 10 Finalist in the Global Teacher Prize awards, acknowledged with a  $1 million prize through the Varkey Foundation in the USA.

Eddie’s inspiring Australia Day Address is available to watch here.

Along with his dedication to his popular YouTube channel, where he uploads recordings of his Mathematics lessons, Woo is also an innovative teacher offline. The MathsPASS (Peer-Assisted Study Session) program is an initiative Woo developed to assist younger students with Mathematics by pairing them with older students during lunchtime.

Woo found that at the large school where he teaches, he was dealing with students entering Year 7 from 20 to 30 different schools, which meant they had very different mathematical backgrounds, and were all at different levels in terms of mathematical concepts.

Sometimes it will take me a whole month of working with students and actually telling them it’s okay to be slow with Mathematics. The most important thing in Mathematics is not speed, it’s the ability to slow down and ask the right questions. It’s okay to make mistakes. Actually, mistakes are so wonderful because you make a mistake, you learn from it and that’s the most important thing…my students have actually gone through their entire schooling, 10 to 15 years, being taught that both of those things are wrong.

‘So, helping students grapple with that, and not judging them and helping them see that they’re accepted in the classroom and it’s safe. It’s really important to help students know you’re not going to jump on them, you’re not going to make them feel belittled because they can’t get an answer. Every day that I’m in the classroom, I do that,’ explains Woo.

As for implementing a program like the MathsPASS Program – where students need to be convinced to give up their lunchtime – Woo says although there was immediate interest across the school, what has been most difficult has been encouraging students to stick with the program, as there is competing demand among other faculties for how they choose to spend their lunch break.

‘As soon as the kids get into the program they realise how much they gain from it…a lot of people feel like if they don’t have instant success at something they’re probably good at something else so just give up and move on. And I really believe that everyone can succeed mathematically if they stick with it.’

At St Catherine’s, our Mathematics teachers provide Maths Support every lunchtime, available for all students from Years 7 to 12. If your daughter is expressing some challenges with her Mathematics this Term, please encourage her to seek further assistance at lunchtime from our teachers. As Eddie alludes to, there are often competing commitments at lunchtime but sometimes 15 minutes with a Mathematics teacher may assist with homework during the evening. Just hearing and seeing a further demonstration and working through Mathematics problems at a slower pace is all that is required to grasp a new concept. Repetition is also ‘key’ in developing confidence with mathematical approaches.

It was refreshing to read the approaches adopted by Eddie Woo are part of our Mathematics approach at St Catherine’s in recent years. Our 2017 School Dux, Zoe Yu, (who has been recently selected to study Mathematics at Cambridge University), was instrumental in establishing a Student Maths Club in her Senior years to share her love of Mathematics with other like-minded girls. Our Head of Maths, Mrs Janette Matt, also advocates for girls to persist with the challenge of their Mathematics program as suggested by Eddie Woo and encourages girls to seek help at lunchtime. Mrs Matt is also available to openly talk about your daughter’s progress in Mathematics this year.

It is always wonderful to hear of innovative educators who are motivating and encouraging students to learn in new and dynamic ways, such as Woo. At St Catherine’s we are privileged to have a broad scope of innovative teachers who continue to push their own teaching pedagogy to improve the educational outcomes for our students. Our Head of Digital Learning and Practice, Mr Alex Borlenghi discusses the importance of educational balance in his Blue Ribbon article this week as well as our Head of Performing Arts, Mr James Brown and Head of Year 9, Ms Fiona Ganino-Day explore the activities of their students.

International Women’s Day March 8 2018

This year, the St Catherine’s Old Girls Association (SCOGA) celebrates International Women’s Day with their Biennial Lunch at The River Room, Crown Towers.

The Biennial Lunch provides an opportunity for St Catherine’s women to come together to celebrate IWD. Raffle prizes on the day include: a two-night stay at Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat in Queensland, a Rowena Martinich (’97) painting, a two night stay at Rae’s on Wategos Bryon Bay Resort, a mid-week stay at Stonefields The Farmhouse and a two night stay at Tribe Hotel in Perth.

Tickets can be purchased here.

Mrs Michelle Carroll, Principal