I just found this incredible video. I was searching through my Netflix account and there it was… The Story of 1. It is a ninety minute video that takes the viewer through the history of math in an extremely fun and engaging way.
In this little hour long documentary the narrator, Terry Jones, traces the history of math from it’s beginnings in ancient Sumeria all the way up to its use in computers in our present age. It has all kinds of very funny and super dry (Terry Jones is British after all) humor and is presented in a way that even if you can barely add 2 and 2 you can get the point. I like this video so much because I think that a lot of times students don’t really understand why we study math at all. Their argument being that we are never gonna use it. And, unless they become a math teacher, physicist, scientist, or an engineer they’re usually pretty right about it. I don’t actually remember ever needing to know how to do a proof on parallel lines cut by a transversal to get me out of a jam. However, we all know that mathematics underlies every singe thing we see in our modern world from the building I’m sitting in to the computer I’m typing on to our present knowledge of the universe. All of it is impossible without math. However explaining that to a teenager is like telling them they will need to know how to balance a checkbook someday. Most of them simply don’t care right now. Unless you show this video :-).
My recommendation is to watch the video. You can of course find it on Netflix, or here is a link to buy it on amazon, www.amazon.com/Story-1 or you could see it on YouTube. I like to pay for things like this because I’m an author myself… Anyway, after you watch it make a short assignment like a worksheet with a list of questions or a journal. keep it simple so students main interest is on the video. Then play it for your class. This would be a good choice for a sub day but the thing is so good I would want to make sure my students were super engaged. It’s up to you.
As a side note I think that tying math to history and to science is one of the best ways to get kids interested in math and to see it’s relevance. It’s true that they may not use it much besides basic arithmetic in their daily lives but just like any subject, it can enrich their understanding of the world just as much as any other subject. It’s videos and activities like this that can help them see that.
I will be working on developing more activities and ideas to tie math to science, history, art, ect. in the coming months, both in my own teaching and in future posts.
If you have great ideas please leave a comment or send us an email. Happy teaching!