Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Twisting, Turning, Doodling, and Games

By Erica Simon, RME Project Specialist

Middle school math students are voracious doodlers, as any teacher of the 11-13 year old set will tell you. But what if all those doodles could teach you about mathematical concepts? What if doodles made math cool?

Sierpinski’s Triangle and Candy Corn
A series of You Tube videos has introduced the world to Vi Hart, the young creative mathmusician, as she calls herself. Although not formally trained in mathematics, but music rather, she LOVES math! And by making it fun with doodles (graph theory), stars (geometry and polygons), and triangles (Sierpinski’s Triangle and candy corn), Vi Hart has engaged young boys and girls to think about prime numbers, binary trees, and fractal patterns and see them as cool. “It’s mathematics that anyone can do.” Said Ms. Hart (New York Times, Jan. 17, 2011).

Ms. Hart does all this doodling with a pencil and a sharpie and records herself “thinking aloud.” Although her musings seems rather stream of consciousness, she is teaching her viewers to make connections and see the elegance of mathematics. She creatively and comically humanizes the father of mathematics theory and proportions (Pythogoras hated beans!) but helps the viewer see the logic behind what the squares in that formula a2+b2=c2 really mean.

Click below for the YouTube video about Pythagoras.
What was up with Pythagoras?

Although we never see anything beyond the hands of Ms. Hart as she is exploring the wonders of Sierpinski’s Triangle and using candy corns to explain the theory, the viewer listens to a young, confident, and gifted mathematician who is infectious about her fascination with the ways in which mathematics surrounds us. And by showing us only her hands, the viewer feels confident that they can do this too!

Did you know about Borromean rings?

Click below for the YouTube video about Borromean rings.
Doodling in Math Class: Snakes and Graphs

Now you do. And you can draw cool snakes!

Share Vi Hart's videos with your students and let us know what you think! vihart.com

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