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

 

 

Teaching from the pottery wheel

This is the loveliest reflection on teaching for creativity. Chris Staley from Penn State University sits at his pottery wheel and quietly talks about creativity. The wheel turns around and around, and gradually a teapot emerges from the clay. He shows the power of demonstration as a teaching tool and leading by example.  Staley mentions the problems of fear and self dobut as inhibitors to creativity, and the need for a willingness to play if you want to be creative.

I couldn’t make anything worthwhile with clay during art class at school. Watching Chris Staley work with the clay, though, I can understand why it might be a pleasing medium to work with if you apply yourself with the right attitude and you work in a supportive environment that assumes that you can learn to be creative.

Can you teach creativity? Chris Staley