I was excited to receive the most recent edition of The Henry Ford Magazine, published by the newly renamed Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation, because bold letters the cover declared it to be “The Math Issue.” Like many of you, I suspect, I have a harder time generating flexible and creative thinking ideas around mathematics than I do in other curriculum areas (sorry, math teachers). Fortunately, “The Math Issue” contains a number of suggested resources. I’ll start here with two.
One place to start is with YouTube’s self proclaimed “mathemusician,” Vi Hart. Listening to Hart’s videos is are a bit like sitting at a lunch table with your most enthusiastic mathematical friend listening to her delight in her latest musings, while she draws colorful doodled illustrations on the napkins. Her topics range from Fibonacci numbers to Infinity Elephants and the impossible spirals on Sponge Bob Squarepants’ pineapple. The math videos are easier to find in the Khan Academy’s collection than on Hart’s own YouTube channel, where they are enmeshed with videos on music and, occasionally, politics. Here’s a sample.
Another source of videos looking at math in new and creative ways can be found in Brady Haran’s Numberphile YouTube series. Numberphile deals with all manner of mathematical rules, curiosity and stories. It is searchable for specific content by using the search icon within the YouTube channel. Are you curious about what a million digits of Pi would look like? Want to hear the story of how Pi was almost redefined? Or perhaps you’d like to calculated Pi based on actual pies? Take a look. And this is only the beginning of the Pi options in Numberphile.
Either of the YouTube video options can provide both content and inspiration. Imagine your students producing their own math explanation videos. In this time of smart phones, the technical challenges may be less daunting than the mathematical ones. The level of math understanding required will be substantial, but that’s a good thing, right? And think of the interdisciplinary options: script writing, illustration, and video production, all in the service of portraying mathematical ideas. Preparing math videos could be a fascinating class project and/or an extension for advanced or interested students interested in exploring a topic in more depth. Who knows, the next YouTube math channel could start in your classroom! If your students create math videos, we’d love to see the links.