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.