Five texting in the back. Three bored, overconfident, ignoring you. Seven who were placed incorrectly in your class and, after struggling through the first exam, will simply give up. Four who answer all the questions (three consistently correct, who will pass with flying colors but will not learn much, and the last doggedly incorrect but undaunted). Two quiet, occasionally channeling their growing frustration into emotional outbursts. Maybe one class clown, looking for distractions. And the other fifteen mostly quiet, mostly well-behaved, mostly hoping against hope they will dodge the college-career-killing bullet that is their math requirement. What am I to do with you, o class of mine?
Yes, there’s the course content. For non-STEM majors, it’s going to be algebra plus maybe some other stuff: rationals, radicals, powers and pi, etcetera minus four a c. Will they ever use it again? Probably not. Is it worth making them learn it? Great question, but not for today. I don’t want to talk about the content — I want to talk about the joy of math. I mean noodling around with an idea, trying things out and discarding them, all process, no destination. How the heck do we make that seemingly-incompatible-with-our-set-syllabi magic take place? I don’t know — but instead of wrestling with the how, which can be depressing, I’d prefer to distract myself with the what. Check out this video by Vi Hart, an awesome example of playing around math.
Vi Hart on snakes:
Vi Hart on Doodling in math class:
If you like it, there’s lots more (videos and many other things) at her blog: