EP 146: Numberphile Mathematician James Grime on Why Math Matters

Nearly one and a half years ago, I made a YouTube video entitled “The Applications of Math.” It was my attempt to explain, in 5 minutes, all the different ways that mathematics empowers the people on this planet to accomplish amazing and seemingly impossible feats (https://youtu.be/oKZ62_j9DuE). Why did I make such a video? Because I wanted to answer the question that every single student of mine has inevitably asked at one time or another: what is the point of learning math? It’s a question that often pops up amidst frustration and boredom, and a half-hearted attempt (in some cases) to shirk math homework.


Despite the fact that students may have an ulterior motive when asking about the relevance of math, I never scold my students for posing such an honest question. In fact, it’s one of the most worthwhile questions to ask along the path of education. Students have every right to know why they are being asked to understand a particular concept and the pertinence it may or may not have to their lives. An issue arises when teachers don’t have sufficient answers to satisfy the curiosities of their students. When teachers or tutors don’t know how math can be used in the real world, these questions are ignored. Students are then forced to follow the curriculum blindly without getting a proper explanation regarding the innumerable applications of math.

I wanted to put an end to these unanswered questions in a short but potent video. And so I did my best to lightly touch upon some of the wondrous applications of math. But my efforts are nothing compared to the educational feats of the gargantuan YouTube channel called Numberphile (https://www.youtube.com/user/numberphile). With over 2 million subscribers to date, Numberphile is one of the largest math focused YouTube channels devoted to bringing complex and vibrant math concepts to the masses. The mathematicians on the channel are amazingly brilliant, and the passion exuded by each and every one of them is more than enough to engage young and old minds alike. One of the most eloquent of the presenters is a mathematician named James Grime, my guest on this podcast episode.

James can be seen in many videos about all sorts of fascinating math concepts. He clearly explains the origins of numbers like Pi and e (Euler’s number), and even devotes one episode to solving the math problem given in an acclaimed film about a math prodigy entitled “Good Will Hunting.” James is more than just a scholar; he is a powerful mouthpiece for the field of mathematics who inspires others to take interest in the field as well as understand the power that mathematics provides. Check out this amazing interview with one of the most famous mathematicians in the world. Hear why James chose mathematics as his area of study, and why he believes math education is so important for the public. If you want to learn more about James, go to his personal website at http://singingbanana.com/.

EP 145 - How Quirky Personalities Teach Math Most Effectively with Tyler Tarver

It’s an amazing feat to have created several viral videos. Making content that is easily shareable and widely popular is hard, and many content creators devote thousands of hours to unlocking this tricky puzzle. As difficult as it can be to craft engaging and enjoyable content, it is even tougher to construct math focused video tutorials to have such a universal impact. Tyler Tarver has reached this amazing milestone with ease, having developed math videos on his channel that have reached well over 300,000 views. What’s special about Tyler is not the fact that he’s well versed in mathematics, or that he uses good imagery when explaining concepts. His special power is his amazing personality. He manages to inject a hefty dose of humor and excitement into each of his video lectures, a potent combination that attracts students in droves from all around the world.

Tyler first began a YouTube channel to share comedic skits with the world. When you watch some of his comedic shorts on his second channel, you can immediately tell that he has a knack for entertainment. He is confident, well spoken, and hilarious. He speaks quickly with a noticeable southern drawl, and his lack of inhibition makes his comedy truly funny. But I think he hits on the best combination of entertainment and education in his many math lectures. Tyler noted that he first began to make math videos simply so that his students had the opportunity to learn at their own pace. He did not initially intend for it grow as large or as quickly as it has. 

The fact that his YouTube channel, Tarver Academy, has become such an amazing resource for students seeking math help is a testament to Tyler’s incredible teaching talent. After spending 11 years in education, both teaching and working with administration, Mr. Tarver is a tried and true educator. He is on the forefront of the edtech world and a great role model for students everywhere. To hear all about Tyler’s journey in education as well as his top recommendations for education resources, check out the full episode. If you’re interested in watching and sharing his many math resources, visit his amazing YouTube channel at http://www.youtube.com/user/sirtylertarver.

EP 144: Memorization Techniques with U.S. Memory Champion Nelson Dellis

Hollywood often glamorizes human beings with extraordinary talents. It’s fascinating for the public to analyze and consider personal tales surrounding almost superhuman powers. Sometimes we hear stories of folks with unbelievable physical traits that make them incredibly strong or agile. Other times we are taken aback by individuals who have dizzying intellects with regards to math or science. There is one functionality in our cerebral wheelhouse that we all undeniably wish was stronger: memory. No matter how well we remember our daily tasks, academic formulas, or basic facts about friends and family, we all want to be better. That is why most of look upon folks like Nelson Dellis with great envy.


Nelson is a 4-time U.S.A. Memory Champion who has set national records by memorizing 310 digits in 5 minutes as well as 193 faces and names in 15 minutes. He also famously learned and recited 10,000 digits of pi. Mr. Dellis has been featured across all major media outlets as a tried and true mastery of memory. Considering all of his accolades, Nelson is clearly one of those lucky individuals who was given a genetic gift of awe inspiring memory. His ability is most certainly fodder for a Hollywood blockbuster about a supernaturally gifted individual with an unfathomable natural talent.

Except that’s not Nelson’s story. Society wants to deify this man as a memory wunderkind, but Dellis claims that this is not the case. Nelson, by his own admission, is a normal guy with no special mental abilities or talents. His interest in strengthening memory began as he watched his grandmother’s bout with Alzheimer’s disease. He entered the world of memory competitions less than a decade ago wrongfully presuming that all memory champions were geniuses. But according to Nelson, these memory juggernauts do not have photographic memories. Instead, they are the product of intense training. Moreover, they use a confluence of ancient memorization strategies that end up giving them immense mental power and a veritable illusion of mental genius.

In this episode, Nelson explains precisely how he and his memory competition cohorts unraveled the secrets of memorization so they can use it to achieve seemingly impossible feats. He also explains how he trains students and executives to sharpen their memories so that they can exploit their own abilities for their personal betterment. Finally, Nelson discusses his memory software, “Art of Memory,” that he will be unveiling to the world as a tool to fortify memory abilities. To learn more about Nelson and his amazing work, check out the full podcast episode!  To learn all about the Art of Memory, go to https://artofmemory.com/. You can also learn more about Nelson Dellis at http://www.nelsondellis.com/.

EP 143: Animating Math to Teach Number Fluency

When I think about why I ended up in education, it boils down to a single word: passion. When I delve a bit deeper into the “why,” I see that dissatisfaction with my previous vocation was also a factor. Drilling down a bit further, I acknowledge that I was also spurred by an inner belief that studying mathematics can become a positive and enjoyable endeavor for anyone if he/she has the right foundation and mindset. In this episode, I had the privilege of interviewing someone who feels the exact same way about math. Jason Skoubye is not your average edtech pioneer. He is a former accountant who had a crazy idea about teaching mathematics: he wanted to build animations so kids had a real chance to develop a concrete number sense. It doesn’t sound that crazy until you realize that Jason has no background in either computer science or animation. He decided to take on an incredibly challenging task on a whim. That whim proved to be right.

Parents, family members, and friends all told him his vision was absurd. Why leave a successful career as an accountant to build something as complex as educational animations? Despite the wave of naysayers, Jason pressed on without hesitation. Slowly but surely, the resistance to his pursuit began to fade as his YouTube channel started to explode.  Today, Math & Learning Videos for Kids has over 44,000 active subscribers. As Jason himself notes, the animation is not ultra sophisticated. Why? He’s not an animator by training. But interestingly enough, his audience actually prefers his simple and clear style. What he makes conveys concepts in a perfectly clear and stylistically appealing manner.

Jason was inspired to create his channel by the fact that he himself struggled with math as a child. In order to truly face his frustration with math head on, he ended up pursuing a career in accounting, one of the heaviest math related majors around. Now, instead of continuing down that path, he has opted to help other young minds make the jump from math frustration to math fluency. Jason’s next phase of edtech brilliance is to build his animations into a fully interactive math based video game called Math Mage. To learn more about Jason Skoubye and his amazing work for kids, check out the full podCast episode! If you are interested in viewing his website, go to https://www.commoncore4kids.com/.

EP 142: Inspiring Social Justice Movements with “Rock Your World”

Project-based learning is the innovative way to teach students by “doing” rather than “watching.” It’s an action-oriented pedagogy that has been receiving rave reviews for its potent ability to convey information and transfer a discrete set of skills. In sum, it is a way for students to “gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to an authentic, engaging and complex question, problem, or challenge.” Take this amazing vehicle for learning and combine it with the goal to spread awareness about social justice issues, and you get Rock Your World.

According to the site’s Acting Director, Jessica Burnquist, Rock Your World is an innovative curriculum that pushes students to ask tough questions about the world. It gives students the power to acknowledge the political and social climates around them and determine what needs to be changed. Moreover, it is a movement that empowers students to both learn about human rights and influence the enforcement of these rights on a global scale.

The beauty of Rock Your World lies within its flexibility. Students are not only able to choose a cause that motivates them, but they can then pick a medium by which to deliver a message. Students in the past have created popular blogs, songs, and educational videos. Projects that are especially impactful and persuasive are often featured on the organization’s website, a bit of added incentive for motivated students seeking to spread a particular message. To learn more about Rock Your World, tune into the full episode! To check out the website, please go to http://www.rock-your-world.org/.

EP 141: The Value of Music Infused Science Education featuring “Science with Tom”

The Meredith Vieira Show was a daytime network talk show on NBC that had a solid run of two years. During the show’s existence, Meredith invited various panels of esteemed guests on air to discuss a range of political and social justice topics. One of her most epic decisions, in my opinion, was to devote a segment of her show to a rising star in the world of science education. Meredith invited a gentleman named Tom McFadden, science teacher and creator of the YouTube channel “Science with Tom,” to share some of his science inspirational lyrics and beats with the world. Tom did just that, but it wasn’t a solo effort. The notorious edu-rapper was accompanied by none other than Lil’ Jon. The show was a victory for both music and education, and the final message was clear: musically charged lectures deliver potent information while engaging young minds. Win, win, and win.

Tom McFadden is a longtime biology and science teacher. He is a stalwart advocate of the Next Generation Science Standards, which is a revolution in science education that deemphasizes rote memorization and instead focuses on the processes of scientific work. The general goal of the shift in standards is to empower students to “apply STEM principles to their lives,” even if they choose an academic or professional pursuit that does not lie directly in the realm of standard scientific pursuits.

Tom first began experimenting with music videos in the classroom after he received a Fulbright Scholarship to study in New Zealand. It was there that he completed a thesis on the impact of music videos in education, spurring him forward to become a prolific content creator in the realm of edu-tainment. Today, Tom’s YouTube Channel has nearly 15,000 subscribers and a collection of professionally produced science music videos. Tom often parodies existing popular songs in order to create his musical stylings. Some of his recent hits include a song about vaccinations entitled “My Shot,” a lesson on genetic material entitled “DNA,” and a track all about water conservation entitled “Drought.”

To hear the full rundown about this revolutionary educator, check out the entire interview! For more information about Tom McFadden, check out his awesome website

EP 140: Video Tutorials as a Pathway to Becoming a Lifelong Learner

Duane Habecker has nearly 30 years of experience teaching mathematics. When it comes to classroom math education, Mr. Habecker is a master. His successful track record and trajectory have led him to the position of Mathematics Coordinator for all of Merced County. But Mr. Habecker is more than an impressive educator with a wealth of experience; he is a pioneer.

In the late 90s, well before YouTube had launched, Mr. Habecker began an experiment with video tutorials. He started recording himself giving math lectures on all sorts of topics. He then stored his videos on a Macintosh computer in his classroom. When students arrived at a new lesson, he would encourage them to watch a video from his math library. After reviewing the video, the students would then take to the textbook and begin solving practice problems. The experiment was a success, and Mr. Habecker’s students were mastering the material in an automated fashion.

When YouTube finally launched around Valentine’s Day of 2005, Mr. Habecker saw an opportunity to store his treasure trove of video tutorials online. By doing so, he empowered students from around the globe to watch and learn at their own pace. Fast forward to present day, and Mr. Habecker has an impressive 27,000 YouTube followers (and counting). His passion for education is palpable, and his video explanations are clear and to the point. He has spent a great deal of time building video modules for the Eureka Math curriculum, which is a hugely popular set of math textbooks used around the U.S.

While Mr. Habecker believes that video tutorials can be extremely effective for teaching mathematics, he maintains that there is a larger purpose at play with his YouTube channel. He contends that his method of teaching is training young minds to be lifelong learners. The world is changing rapidly, and the current way to imbibe information and learn skills is to figure things out on the web. We no longer require classroom instruction to build things and make products. Instead, all we need to do is run a quick Google search, find a solid video, and take notes. This means that the more frequently teachers make use of online learning, the better prepared their students will be for independent entrepreneurial pursuits as adults.

To learn more about Duane Habecker and his awesome YouTube channel, listen to the full podcast interview! To check out his YouTube channel, click here

EP 139: Optimizing Online Learning - A Conversation with Cerego’s CEO

In Episode 135 of the Scalar Learning Podcast, I spoke with Ross Jones, CEO of an edtech company called Emotuit. Jones is on the forefront of online learning with his revolutionary software that tracks and measures interest levels based on facial expressions. The purpose behind Emotuit’s powerful and sleek algorithm is to help educators better hone their lectures and assessments to maximize learning. Cerego is another ground-breaking education company with a similar purpose. What, exactly, is Cerego’s contribution to the eLearning space? In four short words, it’s this: masterful curriculum design guidance. Cerego has developed software that meshes with all sorts of education platforms. It allows educators to custom build lectures and assessments to optimize learning. What’s even more impressive is the software tracks how deeply various bits of knowledge are ingrained in a learner’s mind.  Why is this especially important? Because there is no “one size fits all” formula for learning. Different students learn at different rates via different methods. In order for a learning system to be truly effective across the board, it must be fluid and dynamic. Anything less will only work for a subsection of the student population.

Andrew Smith Lewis, Co-founder and CEO of Cerego, believes that his supercharged eLearning optimization tool is changing the face of education. Personally, I agree. But don’t take my word for it, take a look at the amazing partnerships Cerego has already managed to form. Major players in the education field like edX, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, McGraw Hill, and Harvard (to name a few) have integrated Cerego into their online learning tools. To learn more about this amazing company and how to get your students involved with Cerego backed learning platforms, check out the full podcast episode! To learn more about Cerego, go to https://www.cerego.com/.

EP 138: YouTube Star Professor Dave on Teaching Science Effectively

As YouTube science teachers go, Professor Dave is the cream of the crop. His channel, Professor Dave Explains, has over 88,000 active subscribers to date. Professor Dave, also known as Dave Farina, has a lengthy background in science education. But what makes Professor Dave truly stand out is a combination of two characteristics: humor and precision. His videos are extremely entertaining because of his onstage presence and great sense of humor. Yes, he is an amazing lecturer and can disseminate complex ideas with ease, but what keeps kids hooked into his channel is Dave’s terrific personality.

Another huge reason why his channel is popular is his dedication to high-quality videos with stellar animations. Science is an extremely visual subject, and Professor Dave knows how to effectively use editing tools to convey subjects in an engaging way. If your child is learning science in school and wants a fresh look at their curriculum, I highly encourage them to explore Professor Dave’s YouTube channel. It will not only provide an alternative means for explanations and tutorials, but it will most certainly inject some excitement into the process. To check out Professor Dave Explains, follow this link. To hear all about science and the importance of making it fun, listen to the full podcast episode.

EP 137: Teaching Financial Fluency with Pennyowl

One out of two families in the U.S. are financially fragile. What does that mean? It means that an unexpected expense of $2,000 would be cause for panic. A random doctor's bill or school related expenditure of this magnitude would force a financially fragile family to seek a small loan or take on credit card debt. If you’re not shocked by this fact, then I’ll just have to be shocked for the both of us.

Why do so many families tend to live on the edge with respect to finances? According to Seamus Matthews, CEO and co-founder of Pennyowl, the root of the issue is a lack of financial education. To remedy this problem, Seamus and his team designed Pennyowl, a mobile app that teaches kids how to collect, spend, and save money. It’s a revolutionary system that trains the mind using virtual currency so that kids will understand how to handle money as teenagers and adults. As the app evolves, it will eventually use real money so that parents can dole out actual allowances and payments through the system.

What’s interesting about the market for Pennyowl is that both low-income and high-income families seem to love it. The low-income folks want to train their children so they avoid debt and eventually reach financial stability, while the high-income clientele seek to prepare their children for the risks and troubles that come along with inheriting reasonably large sums of money. It’s obvious that there is a massive need and demand for this product. If you’re interested in learning more, make sure to check out the entire episode! You can read all the specifications of the product at http://www.pennyowl.com.