Illawarra Woo-ed by Eddie’s love of maths

The Department’s Maths Growth Team’s impact was on show at a workshop that revealed the subject is an art, a science, and great fun. Julee Brienen reports.

A man crouching down at a table with a group of older students A man crouching down at a table with a group of older students
Image: "Like a personal one on one": Year 10 student Jackson Costello-Kopke with Eddie Woo.

‘Fun’, ‘joy’, ‘infectious’ and ‘engaging’ are words that teachers and students used to describe Eddie Woo’s workshops this week in Wollongong.

His message is that all students are capable of excelling at mathematics and everyone can be a “maths person” with the right mindset.

“Mathematics is found everywhere and it’s for everyone,” he said.

“The student workshops are aimed at cultivating this attitude and broadening students’ understanding of mathematics and how broadly it applies to their lives.

“We use puzzles, games and even card tricks to show students that mathematics is more than just dry formulas, and that we can, and do, use it in everyday life, all the time.”

Mr Woo leads the Department of Education’s Maths Growth Team, 15 instructional leaders based in public schools across the state who support teachers to teach maths with engaging, effective and evidence-based strategies.

“For teachers, teaching mathematics is a complex and challenging activity that is both an art and a science,” Mr Woo said.

“Doing it effectively requires a deep knowledge of the curriculum, a broad range of teaching strategies, and a positive learning relationship with students.”

The workshops were organised by Maria Quigley, a Maths Growth Team instructional leader based at Dapto High School. Around 75 Illawarra primary and secondary teachers attended the workshops, as well as students from Dapto High School.

Ms Quigley said Mr Woo’s workshops gave students an insight into the importance of maths in their everyday lives – and for teachers to see engaging activities in practice.

“It’s extremely rewarding seeing teachers get excited by learning about new ideas and then developing their own engaging activities for their classes,” she said.

“This then translates to students enjoying their mathematics experiences.”

Year 10 Dapto High School student Jackson Costello-Kopke said Mr Woo’s maths session was entertaining and brought a different perspective to learning maths.

“His views on maths are just so different … and his style of teaching is so engaging,” Jackson said.

“Even though he was teaching a whole class, I felt like I had a personal one-on-one session.

“I liked the way he made us think about different ways of approaching a problem, and I think the session will help me in an assessment I have coming up soon.”

Simone Beaumont, a teacher at Hayes Park Public School, said the workshops created an environment that was motivating, fun and safe.

“It was the perfect environment for learning about maths,” Ms Beaumont said.

“We have been working with Maria as part of the Dapto Learning Community focus on mathematics this year, and decided this workshop would benefit all our teachers.

“The key message for me was understanding the essential role of working mathematically when planning for teaching and learning and for students to think deeply about simple things and have fun when learning.”

Dapto High School principal Andrew FitzSimons said it was an honour for the school to be the base for the Maths Growth Team in the Illawarra area.

“Mr Woo’s passion for mathematics is infectious and energising. He brings a lot of joy and engagement to the subject,” he said.

Ms Quigley said she was inspired by the high level of interest in the workshops and looked forward to continuing her work with the Maths Growth Team.

“I love mathematics and I love learning and supporting teachers to become the best they can be by introducing them to new ideas,” she said.

“I believe you should never stop learning and looking for ways to be a better teacher.”

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