On the Couch with Eddie Woo

Eddie Woo AAR On the Couch - photo by Tealily PhotographyWho is Eddie Woo?
Father of three kids and husband of one wife. I’m a Christian and the youngest of three siblings. Also a mathematics teacher at Cherrybrook Technology High School, the host of Teenage Boss on ABC ME, and the author of Woo’s Wonderful World of Maths.

What would you do differently to what you do now?
Right now, I’m travelling a lot – and very thankful for the opportunity, since most of it has flowed out of being named Australia’s Local Hero in the 2018 Australian of the Year Awards. It’s given me so many amazing experiences, but I’m definitely looking forward to the year coming to a close and getting to spend lots more time around family!

Who inspires you and why?
The physicist Richard Feynman was an amazing man. He had an incredible mind whose insights into particles and quantum physics have shaped the way we view the fundamental realities of our universe. However, I think his most brilliant trait was his uncanny ability to craft a story or image that enabled everyday people to comprehend a complex concept with simplicity and ease. It’s a wonderful skill that I try to emulate in every lesson I teach to my students.

What would you do to make a difference in the world?
Imagine a universe where people loathed music – everyone was forced to learn it for a minimum of ten years, and most people experienced it as dull and repetitive drudgery where you were required to endlessly repeat scales without exercising creativity and writing your own songs.

Rather than viewing music as an essential part of the human desire to express ourselves and articulate the realities we see around us, to be enjoyed and appreciated, regular people would leave school relieved that they had survived and would never had to engage with music again. Well, I think we already live in that world – except substitute “mathematics” for “music”. The difference I’m trying to make in the world is trying to play people the melodies of mathematics to help them realise it’s a beautiful subject that everyone can enjoy!

Favourite holiday destination and why?
Singapore: mouthwatering meals and gorgeous gardens. As an added bonus, it’s very close to the land my parents were born (Malaysia), so I get a real sense of being in touch with my heritage when I’m there.

When friends come to town, what attraction would you take them to, and why?
It’s hard to go past the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge – climbing it is a pretty amazing experience, and as an added bonus it has a ton of mathematics built into it. Did you know that the bridge’s 52,000 tons of steelwork are held together by more than 6 million hand-driven rivets?

What are you currently reading?
Hello World: Being Human in the Age of Algorithms by Hannah Fry.

What are you currently listening to? 
Music: I know it’s a bit 2017, but I’ve still got most of Coldplay’s A Head Full of Dreams on repeat. Podcast: the latest season of Serial from This American Life.

Happiness is?
Serving others with the gifts you have and knowing that you’re making a positive difference in their lives.

What does the future hold for you?
I’ve already learned a few times in my life that it’s foolish to try and stare into a crystal ball. Enough predictions I’ve made about my own future have turned out so laughably wrong that it’s almost a running joke for me to see how much reality diverges from what I anticipate!

But I can safely say that I love working with students and teachers in schools and there still remains so much work to do in the mathematics education space. As for what shape that work will take in the future – watch this space!

Eddie has just released Woo’s Wonderful World of Maths – published by Macmillan Australia and available at all leading book retailers.

Image: Eddie Woo – photo by Tealily Photography

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