Strategies for teaching math

Every year, I start teaching genetics by having the students do lots of math, and statistics, and probability calculations. It’s the most difficult part of the class for many of the students. But look! SMBC has a new pedagogical method!

If this works, it’ll revolutionize my classes. Hire a stripper to walk around lamenting that she doesn’t understand Poisson distributions or how to get a p value from that set of data, and presto, we’re done!

Except for one catch. I just checked my class list, and 71% of my students are young women, maybe some are lesbians, but that isn’t recorded in the class data.

Would it work if I traipsed around the classroom in a unitard?


  1. wzrd1 says

    At least you’re allowed to do so.
    The EPA prohibits me from doing so after the beach incident. Come on now, only 50 beach goers turned to stone!

  2. birgerjohansson says

    We are talking about Minnesota, but maybe you can recruit a good-looking male stripper from out of state?

  3. Samuel Vimes says

    No offense, but please don’t. I mean, don’t get me wrong, it would certainly garner a lot of attention, but there might possibly maybe be some, shall we say…consequences.

  4. René says

    I always hated the ALL-CAPS in cartoons. No difference here. I consider it half-litterate.

  5. René says

    BTW, it is also why I hate the post-glagolyitic non-italic fonts used by the other evil empire.

  6. robro says

    Would it work if I traipsed around the classroom in a unitard?

    Undoubtedly it would work…toward early retirement, perhaps, not toward learning math, but it would work. Of, if cognitive research is correct, perhaps the way to get them to learn their math is to print the instructions and problems on your leotard in a text font that is small and dim…i.e. harder to read…to make their brains concentrate.

  7. says

    @6 & 7 René. It would be ignored, but we would prefer to use ancient Germanic Fraktur. And, in its own way would compel literacy. And, all caps can serve many purposes. Often creators of comics need to use it just to enhance readability. since many of their images are rather small
    Math is a vital, necessary language for anyone who values intelligence.

  8. says

    And in addition, regarding fonts, serif fonts are much easier for the mind to understand (especially in long passages) compared to APPPPLE spawned hell-vetica and other san-serif fonts.

  9. says

    PZ, how could you use spiders to motivate learning? Eight sexy,j naked legs instead of two? The fact that you push math early in your courses should tell the students how important it is!

  10. says

    @PZ, Would it work if I traipsed around the classroom in a unitard?
    The students would indeed take notice, but, wouldn’t you freeze your assets off?

  11. komarov says

    “Would it work if I traipsed around the classroom in a unitard?”

    That’s the sort of experiment that’s difficult to get past a review board (one hopes).

  12. says

    “Would it work if I traipsed around the classroom in a unitard?”
    Only if you threatened to keep wearing it until they mastered the subject.

  13. ajbjasus says

    We’re going to need a lot of strippers over here in the UK after Rishi’s latest announcement.

  14. says

    Well, you could make it conditional: If they all score at least a B, you put on normal clothing again…
    If you think you have problems with college students, consider my fate: When I ask for a simple 2nd grad multiplication in year 7, I instantly feel transported to some sort of market or auction hall where people will yell seemingly random numbers…

  15. richardh says

    Shermanj@11 : “APPPPLE spawned hell-vetica”

    Helvetica is nearly 20 years older than Apple, and its ancestor Akzidenz-Grotesk dates back to 1898. (IBM was responsible for the clone called Arial.)

    It was very popular with graphic designers, though I don’t understand why they thought it was a good idea to make capital eye and lowercase ell indistinguishable.

  16. says

    @21 richardh; thanks for the clarification. I should have said APPPPLE’a popularity pushed unobservant people to use hell-vetica. Having been a sys-admin of an AS400 system and all its flaws, I used to say IBM stands for Industry’s Biggest Mistake. Of course you are correct, sans-serif fonts make it difficult to distinguish between lwrcase ‘L’, numeral ‘1’, uprcase ‘I’, etc. It thwarts accurate communication.

  17. says

    @23 hopeleith — While I don’t dispute that article you quote may have some validity in regard to dyslexia, what I expressed isn’t a ‘belief’. It is based on decades of studies and experience I have as an author, instructor and publisher of technical and artistic articles and books. And as @21 richardh and I have witnessed, the lack of differentiation of many letters and numbers in sans-serif fonts (especially in small point sizes) has led to errors in character recognition. That is one of many reasons that most long articles and books have always been published using serif fonts.