Since mathematics as a whole is a difficult subject to learn, maybe different approaches are needed to enhance the teaching of this discipline. Certainly the hands-on method gives students a tactile perspective to the inner workings of this subject, while the real-life applications approach lets students see and understand how mathematics is actually used in life and in different worldly settings. Could poetry be another approach through which to teach and learn this most fascinating subject?
There is an interesting story behind the creation of my work Poems for the Mathematically Insecure. While I was tutoring one of my learning disabled students, he asked me to do something for him for pi day. For those of you who do not know, pi day is March 14 of any year (March 14 is 3/14) and the decimal approximation to the famous mathematical constant known as pi is 3.14. Every year in schools across the country, math teachers like students to do some special project involving the number pi.
While sitting there tutoring him, I asked him if he would like me to put together a poem on pi. He naturally said yes, and while he worked on some practice examples I gave him, I sat there and hammered out the lines to a poem which would be called Wonderful Pi. I decided to keep a copy for myself to use in my classrooms the next day, assigning one volunteer in each class to read the poem aloud. Because the poem was well received, I decided to write some others.
What came out of this experience was the idea to write a collection of math poems—some humorous, some witty, some pedagogical—which would both teach and entertain the reader. Thus during the summer of 2003, I worked on the novel collection of verse called Poems for the Mathematically Insecure. In this collection, the reader finds the humorous Help, Please Help, Teacher! and the instructive Chief SOHCAHTOA, the latter of which teaches the basics of trigonometry in a torrent of rhyming verse. There is even the classic, How Can This Be?, which proves in verse in a manner that anyone can understand, the famous fact that the real numbers between 0 and 1 are more numerous than all the counting numbers put together. Now how’s that for teaching math in a novel manner!
The textbook approach to learning mathematics definitely has its place in the classroom. Indeed there is a limit and some restrictions to what math can be learned from poetry, but these limitations are mostly imposed by the confines of our minds. As educators, we must constantly look for new and interesting ways to pique our students’ interest, and manners in which to break through learning barriers. Learning math through poetry just might be an instructive way to accomplish these objectives. And who knows? We might churn out some good poets as well as good mathematicians. What an interesting thought.
See more at Cool Math Poems Ebook
Joe is a prolific writer of self-help and educational material and an award-winning former teacher of both college and high school mathematics. Under the penname, JC Page, Joe authored Arithmetic Magic, the little classic on the ABC’s of arithmetic. Joe is also author of the charming self-help ebook, Making a Good Impression Every Time: The Secret to Instant Popularity; the original collection of poetry, Poems for the Mathematically Insecure, and the short but highly effective fraction troubleshooter Fractions for the Faint of Heart. The diverse genre of his writings (novel, short story, essay, script, and poetry)—particularly in regard to its educational flavor— continues to captivate readers and to earn him recognition.
Joe propagates his teaching philosophy through his articles and books and is dedicated to helping educate children living in impoverished countries. Toward this end, he donates a portion of the proceeds from the sale of every ebook. For more information go to http://www.mathbyjoe.com