More to Mathematics

Woo (standing) shares his ideas with teacheers in a session.

MATHEMATICS is more than being logical and knowing how to reason.

It is also about being creative, open and communicative.

Sounds contradictory? Well, not according to famed Australian Mathematics educator Eddie Woo who believes that the reasoning and logical skills developed from learning Mathematics are not exclusively mutual from being creative and artsy.

“Many people think that Mathematics is a tough subject.

“In fact, everyone can embrace and enjoy Mathematics if they learn it in an engaging way,” he says.

Teaching Mathematics should be playful and inquiry-based but should also include rote-learning and textbook exercises, he adds.

Teachers, he adds, often ask students to copy something from their textbooks, solve it and repeat the process again and again when it comes to learning Mathematics.

“Textbooks are wonderful servants but terrible masters,” he says, pointing out that teachers tend to depend on textbooks and workbooks during lessons.

“We teach students a pattern and we want them to recognise and repeat it,” he says, adding that this kills the creativity that can be found in solving Mathematical problems.

“Following patterns is not a way to cultivate creativity. Why not let the students create the patterns on their own?”

Woo, whose family was from Kuala Lumpur, was in Malaysia recently to share his love of Mathematics with about 200 secondary school teachers and students during two engagement sessions at Petrosains, The Discovery Centre.

In his “teaching voice”, he discussed and presented interesting topics such as Dispositions for Mathematical Success, Four Compass Points for Beginning Teachers as well as Reimagining Mathematics and Mathematics Games.

Woo is known for his innovative and personal teaching approach and in 2012, he started posting videos online for a student with cancer, who was missing out on lessons in school.

It wasn’t long before his videos found a global audience and his Youtube channel, “Wootube” now boasts more than 300,000 subscribers with more than 19 million views.

On ways to bring more creativity to the teaching process, Woo says that teachers should work with their peers who teach other subjects, pick their minds and come up with new innovative ways to teach their lessons.

Woo admits that Mathematics was not his favourite subject as a child and that he always pictured himself as a humanities teacher.

“The reason I now love Mathematics so much is that it is a new way to think and look at the entire world.”

He is the head mathematics teacher at Cherrybrook Technology High School, New South Wales in Australia.

“In Australia, we don’t want to just develop (Mathematical) knowledge and skills. We want them to become confident and purposeful mathematicians,” he says during his first engagement talk.

“Can our students take an idea, a solution and not just be able to find it but place it into someone else’s mind so that they can understand it?” he asks the teachers, explaining that this should be their goal when teaching Maths.

Teachers should not be thinking about preparing their students for exams or keeping them busy until they go home. Learning maths is about learning to collaborate, open and creative, he adds.

Australian High Commissioner to Malaysia Andrew Goledzinowski says Woo’s methods have made Mathematics more interesting and has given him new insight into the value of education.

“He makes Maths fun and accessible for all, and we are so pleased he is here to share his passion for maths with the Malaysian audience,” he adds.

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