Tag Archives: YouTube

On Maths Teachers

Last Saturday saw the annual City Bible Forum ‘Life at Work’ conference. With the uncertainties of Covid-19 this year’s conference had to be a virtual one over Zoom. Whilst some of us in Melbourne missed the excellent food served up by our usual hosts, CQ Functions, many others away from capital cities were able to participate. One speaker was Eddie Woo, committed Christian and maths teacher extraordinaire. His YouTube channel, WooTube, started with him filming class lessons for a sick student in 2012, and it now has over 1.1 million subscribers. For his work he was made Australian Local Hero of the Year 2018 – a well deserved honour.

As for my own school maths teachers, they may never got to be known outside their local circles, but thanks to them I’ve spent 30+ years writing engineering software with more than a little maths. I owe them all a great debt.

Extract from Hampton Grammar School report

The facts do indeed justify the conclusion!

Two from Hampton Grammar School stand out. It’s an institution I carry less than fond memories of and yet I remember many individual teachers with affection.

Maths was my strong subject as this report extract shows (I’m not sure why this term’s class ranking was so low). Unfortunately I didn’t apply myself to most other subjects.

For O-level maths our teacher was the elderly (to us schoolboys) Frank Steffens. He was an old boy of the school having been Head Boy c.1924-5. He went off to university, then returned to HGS to spend the rest of his working life as a maths teacher. His apparent sternness disguised a kindly nature. He wanted every boy in his class to succeed and we did. I’m not sure whether today’s teachers would be allowed to make the weakest pupils of the week sit in the front row on the following week, but it was a tactic that worked!

I was in the ‘Latin A’ [express] stream which meant that we took our O-levels after four years instead of five; for maths we took the ordinary exam in January followed by Additional Maths in June. There were 32 of us in the class (not streamed for maths); 28 of us got a grade A in the O-level, 4 got B’s and 4 C’s (when pass grades were A-E), an extraordinary achievement. Later, in the sixth form Mr Steffens took us for a general studies class. Us boys were amazed that someone so ancient (he would have been in his early 60s!) could understand and explain to us the science behind Dolby stereo!

We started our A-level studies under Stan Barton, who was also Deputy Head. With an interregnum between heads, he was often called away and so would set work for us to get on with in his absence. Not too much work was being done when Alan Waltham, head of maths, happened to walk by the classroom and hearing our chatter decided to investigate. He decided that it would be best if our group could sit in his classroom and get on with our work while he taught his main class, breaking off occasionally to check on our progress. Finding that four of us were well ahead of the others he offered to coach us to sit pure and applied maths as two subjects rather than sit the combined paper, an offer which we accepted. And so this left him teaching three different groups at the same time! And we all passed!

Then to Reading University: No specific maths classes but in my last year those of us in the Building Surveying stream had a weekly structural engineering class. It was the high spot of my week, not so for most of my fellow students. Our lecturer, Mike Hewitt, owned a calculator which could calculate sines and cosines! We were in awe of this device which had cost him a couple of months salary. We did our calculations with slide rules! He understood that some were not mathematically inclined: “In the exam there will be seven questions and you have to do five. 4½ will be mathematical questions and 2½ essay questions [i.e. one half-and-half]. That’s so those of you who can’t add up 2+2 can at least pass on the essay questions and the clever buggers among you [looking at me] can’t get 100%”. He’d be pleased, I hope, to see what this ‘clever bugger’ has been doing for most of his working life.

You could earn $$$,$$$!

What do you watch? And how do you pay for it? Back when I was born in the UK, there was just one television channel, the BBC. Television ownership was then far from universal, though the Queen’s Coronation on June 2nd 1953 had spurred the demand for televisions. The BBC was financed (and still is) by a licence fee, payable by everyone who owned a TV  (or radio in those days), rather than by advertising. This gives it the freedom to carry content that doesn’t necessarily command a mass audience but serves subsets of the population. The counter argument would be that the freedom from commercial imperatives leads to content which doesn’t match the desires of those who have no choice but to pay for it.

The endless BBC-knocking stories in the right-wing UK press invariably draw comments on the theme of ‘The BBC should be cut loose and made to finance itself’. Let me just note that according to BARB research, the BBC channels are the most watched (51:29 per day avg, 14-20 Sep 2020), well ahead of ITV (37.58), Sky (17:32), C4 (17:02) and C5 (11:59). A couple of decades ago, ITV had more viewers than BBC so who is failing the audience? If the BBC lost its licence fee and was made to take advertising, the other commercial channels would no doubt take a massive hit.

But all these channels are now up against other competition, Netflix, YouTube, Amazon Prime etc. Most are subscription services. YouTube gives viewers the option for ad-free content, but do many people pay for this? In its early days it seemed to be a home for what were once dismissively called ‘home movies’ but no more. The production values of most YouTube content are as good as anything on mainline TV.

What’s really interesting is that YouTube has evolved to be a money-making platform for content creators. In most cases it’s a case of attracting eyeballs and getting a cut of the associated advertising income, but what I find interesting are the channels that ask for money. Their viewers pay, not because they have to, not because they are going to receive anything in return (ok, perhaps a mention in the credits or a preview), but just out of a desire to reward the producers of what they’ve enjoyed and to encourage them to do more. The patronage of past times, where the wealthy supported causes close to their hearts has been democratised. According to its website, Patreon  now currently supports more than 100,000 creators, who receive recurring donations from over 3 million supporters. Some are earning six-digit sums each year. Few manage this of course, but in principle anyone could! All made possible by technology. Lest you wonder I’m not planning to become a YouTuber. But here are three of my favourite YouTube channels:

  • Big Car – for anyone interested in the history of ordinary British cars (Patreon)
  • Cruise Tips TV – videos all about cruising (ad-hoc donation support)
  • WooTube – how an Australian maths teacher became a cult figure

P.S. Dec 2020. Nicky from Kitchen Sanctuary explains How we made over $100,000 in the first half of 2019 – great recipes!