Passion and numbers

Creative teachers are passionate. This mathematician, Dr James Grime, is a great example. You can see he loves his numbers so much that he has to share that excitement. Checkout his passion for numbers in this episode of Numberfile. 82,000 is a particularly interesting number, apparently.

Another mark of excellent and creative teachers is their ability to explain concepts clearly. In the second video Dr Grime explains the mathematical problem that is key to the action in the film Good Will Hunting. Grime reckons you can solve this problem at home. Supposedly this problem took the MIT professors in the film two years to solve, but Grime says no, it’s not that difficult. Well, it depends who’s tackling the problem of course and how clear thinking they are and how much persistence and patience they have.

It’s interesting to watch Grime talk through the problem solving process which involves lines and dots. He gets so much fun out of it. I’m sure he and Sherlock Holmes would have enjoyed problem solving together.

Maths and creativity

I wish there were more maths teachers like Adam Spencer. He’s passionate about his numbers in a way that makes the less passionate, like me, wonder what he is on, and where can you get some.

Spencer is a mathematics geek, a comedian and a morning radio host. His TED talk shows how different we all are, which is a blessing, especially given the recent federal election in Australia. (Who’d want to be like a politician? But someone has to do it.  Again, not me.)

Difference is important. Cultivating difference is important. Teaching so that difference is nurtured is important. I’m so glad we are finally coming out of the dark industrial age of education where  everyone is expected to be the same, to come out of the system the same. Although, sometimes I rethink this when I see the annual clutch of  adolescent kids sitting, anxiety filled, in rows of desks in the school hall, in the summer heat, doing their end of high school, graduation exams. Is this what 13 years of education comes down to – performance in a 2-3 hour exam? Not a new question.

Anyway,  most  kids/young people, in Australia, in our very lucky country, have a chance of follow their passion and dreams. Not all – but many.

And some end up like  Adam Spencer. He is brilliant mathematically, but choses to share his brilliance, not within the higher education system as a professor, but as a breakfast radio host, clowning around  in the media, being a champion for numbers, particularly prime numbers, and a champion for logical thinking – and creativity.  He’s always got the mood button turned to laughter and fun and play. A truly creative person he encourages others to share his crazy passion for numbers like 7 and 9 and 11 and 13, right up to the monster numbers he talks about in this TED talk. He helps in the search for  ultimate prime numbers from his radio broadcaster’s desk, tweeting about numbers with his headset on, while we eat out toast and muesli.

“Numbers are the musical notes with which the symphony of the universe is written, ” he says. Passion is a great thing.

Adam Spencer: Why I fell in love with monster prime numbers