Brisbane author, educator and businessman named a QUT Outstanding Alumni of the Year

Origo's co-founder has made a strong contribution to how maths is taught.
Nov 23, 2021
James Burnett has not stood still for long since graduation.

Inspirational author, educator and businessman James Burnett has been named Queensland University of Technology’s Outstanding Alumnus for 2021 in the Education Category.

The Outstanding Alumni Awards recognise graduates of QUT and its predecessor institutions for exceptional professional and personal achievements and contributions to the local, national, and international community.

For over three decades Mr Burnett, who co-founded ORIGO Education 26 years ago, has devoted himself to making mathematics fun for all primary school children while simultaneously encouraging a love of teaching maths through the development of quality, research-based classroom resources and dynamic professional learning programs for teachers throughout Australia and across the globe.

Mr Burnett, now Executive Chairperson of ORIGO Education, said he could not have achieved such a distinguished award without the support of his mentor, collaborator and business partner Dr Calvin Irons.

“I have Calvin to thank for our shared success in striving to make mathematics meaningful, enjoyable and accessible for all students and their teachers,” said Mr Burnett who discovered a ‘better way of teaching maths’ while studying under Dr Irons and wife Rosemary in the late 80s at the then Brisbane College of Advanced Education, now QUT.

Having studied a post graduate degree on mathematics curriculum – the first of its kind in Australia and conceived by Dr Irons – it wasn’t long before the gentlemen embarked on their first co-authored project, Mathematics from Many Cultures which went on to win its category and the overall prize in Australia’s inaugural Excellence in Education Publishing Awards.

Mr Burnett believes that having such a positive first experience in both writing and publishing nurtured his passion for education and led to his and Calvin’s ‘light bulb moment’.

“It was after a long day of writing, and we were talking about how we would like the future to look. It was at that moment we decided to start our own company,” said Mr Burnett.

Since then, Mr Burnett has authored and co-authored more than 300 mathematics resources for teachers and students aged five to twelve and is regularly invited to speak to audiences across North America and Australia.

In 2009, James was honoured with a prestigious business award, winning the products category in the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year for the Northern Region of Australia. This globally recognised award celebrates those who are building and leading dynamic businesses. Nominees were judged on their entrepreneurial spirit, innovation, personal integrity, strategic direction, and national and global impact.

His most recent business achievements include winning the Education and Training Category in the 2015 Australian Export Awards; the 2017 Australian Primary Publisher of the Year; and Learning Magazine’s 2018 Teacher’s Choice for ORIGO Education’s core K-6 mathematics program, Stepping Stones, with the organisation’s latest innovative animated Big Books series named a finalist in the 2021 internationally renowned EdTech Digital Cool Tools Awards and the winner of the prestigious 2021 Educational Publishing Awards Australia Primary: Student Resource – Mathematics category.

ORIGO Education publishes and covers all facets of primary mathematics education from traditional printed products to digital interactive resources and professional learning throughout the world, supporting primary teachers across 14 countries, including Australia, the US, Canada, Singapore and Thailand. To find more information about ORIGO Education, visit