Dr Calvin Irons
Dr Calvin Irons

Adding to success story of maths education dynamo

MATHEMATICS innovator and former lecturer Dr Calvin Irons says everywhere we turn, across the ages, maths is in our lives.

Just look at the discussion around the coronavirus.

"I can see tons of mathematics that they are using to describe it all," Dr Irons said.

Dr Irons' passion is in developing tools for teachers, parents and even grandparents to educate the very young to enjoy the complexity of maths in a simplified, enjoyable way.

At age 70 and with an inquisitive mind still working at full speed, he walked out the door of the Queensland University of Technology and into his maths education business, Origo.

"I finished on a Friday and on Saturday I was on a plane to work in the Origo office in the US," Dr Irons said.

The international business, which he started with one of his former students, is in its 25th year. It focuses on providing, through teachers, down-to-earth maths education for primary school students.

"The material has much more visual representations," he said. "The definition of understanding is when you have a good picture in your brain of whatever you are talking about.

"You don't get pictures in your brain if you are juggling mathematical symbols. You have to have objects that you can relate to those mathematical symbols."



Calvin and Rosemary Irons
Calvin and Rosemary Irons


His wife Rosemary, 74, has worked in the Origo team since the company's inception. The former primary school teacher went on to study mathematics at Indiana University.

While Rosemary no longer has a hands-on role, Dr Irons said he still enjoyed brainstorming ideas with her.

Now 76, Dr Irons is rising to the new challenge of driving the evolution of the company, looking at ways to respond to forced home schooling for many parents and the changes he sees in employment opportunities in the next 20 years.

"I am working on computational thinking, which is what I think students need to be well prepared on so they can go into the digital age in terms of the thinking required to write algorithms for any kind of programming," he said.

"Past mathematics (teaching) has been all very procedural. This (new project) has to be lateral thinking; think outside the box, think off to the side, don't get stuck in a rut with your thinking.''

Before Dr Irons can bed down his current project, he needs to complete developing for Origo one-a-day maths activities that parents can use with their children at home.

He suggests one of the best mathematical games for children, and for grandparents to exercise their brain, is dominoes.