by Tyler Clark

Some time ago I came across Prezi, a rather neat presentation software. Its effects go beyond that of Microsoft PowerPoint. They have a search feature on their website and I of course (being a math junkie) searched for “mathematics.” One of the presentations I found that I really enjoyed was created by Alison Blank and is titled “Math is Not Linear.” It is mainly geared towards high school teachers, but it has a lot of thought provoking ideas that we could all use as a learning tool. You can view it at http://prezi.com/aww2hjfyil0u/math-is-not-linear/.

In her presentation, Blank talks about teaching math in hierarchical steps. She notes that,

A background of certain skills can be helpful before you set out exploring.

She suggests that it is the common belief that “…mastery of one subject is a prerequisite for dabbling another…” She goes on to say that this is a complete fallacy. She presents five arguments for not teaching math in a linear order. These arguments are,

- It’s not motivating.
- It prevents students from being exposed to topics they might enjoy.
- It fosters anxiety by turning mathematics into a race.
- It hinders understanding by obscuring the big picture.
- It spreads misunderstanding about what mathematics is.

Blank goes on to describe ways that teachers can change their teaching techniques to better help students. These suggestions are,

- Go on tangents.
- Foreshadow.
- Relate material back to previous classes.
- Be less helpful! Let students tell you what they need to know.
- Teach an elective.

I have just given an outline of her ideas. View her presentation for the full scope of her thoughts. I would love to hear what you think about Blank’s ideas. Also, if you know of any other good online presentations about mathematics, please share them with us.