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.