Everything from the weather report, to traffic light sequences, applying for a mortgage and criminal court sentencing relies on mathematics and yet it’s one subject many people don’t understand.
Australia’s most famous maths teacher Eddie Woo was in Warrnambool on Monday and said it was the foundation of our world. “Mathematics is woven into everything and it’s hidden in plain site so we need to understand it,” Mr Woo said.
“With Facebook and data and algorithms we already live in the world where maths and literacy underpins everything, but we haven’t taken ownership of it. If you ask someone in the street if maths is important to them they would say no. I’m trying to open people’s eyes and say it is much more important than you realise.”
Mr Woo likened understanding the subject to trying a new food. “It’s like you need to taste this because you’ll love it once you do. If people could have mathematics presented to them in an engaging way that’s relevant to their life and enjoyable then I think they gain a different perspective on it.”
Mr Woo uses stories to explain a maths concept. “It‘s not about here is a rule, here is a problem now do it 50 times. It’s about there’s a different premise for understanding nature or understanding human behaviour. That’s really powerful for me.”
He shared his What is Maths Really workshop with hundreds of students on at the Lighthouse Theatre.
“People think it’s about numbers and calculations and formulas and those are all a part of it but they’re a tiny little slice. In the hour I get kids to get their hands dirty doing some maths but in a way that’s hopefully inviting, not intimidating and very accessible. Everyone can have a go.”
He said there was a national maths teacher shortage and hoped to inspire students to think differently. “Every child sitting there has different skills and abilities and will have different doors open to them. I don’t want them all to be maths teachers.
“I want them to be awesome versions of whatever they’re going to do serving needs in their communities in whatever ways possible. I’m really excited about where they’re going to go.”