The best place to learn math

You'd probably want to put your kids in a math class taught by Edward B. Burger. Here is a portion of an item from the Chronicle of Higher Education about this guy:

"............. Armed with a lesson plan and a conviction that he could cut through his classmates' collective fog, he asked his high-school teacher if she'd step aside and let him teach two classes.

'She agreed, and at the age of 17, I stood up in front of a precalculus class of about 40 students who looked at me like I was the biggest nerd in the world,' says Mr. Burger.

He began teaching night classes at Austin Community College at age 22, while he was working on his doctorate at the University of Texas at Austin. 'What I was trying to do was to take really complex, intricate, abstract ideas of mathematics and make them come to life for these students,' he says."

And here is one example of his technique:

".........To demonstrate the concept of infinity to a class of mostly liberal-arts students at Baylor, he sketches a trough that he describes as containing an infinite number of Ping-Pong balls, which are falling into a barrel, 10 at a time, as a hypothetical student reaches in and plucks balls out at shorter and shorter intervals.

'Soon you'll be working faster than the speed of sound, than the speed of light. You black out, regain consciousness, approach the barrel, look inside. My question to you is, 'What's inside? What is in the barrel?''

The students pair up at their desks and compare guesses. 'It has to be infinity,' one says. His partner responds, 'He's trying to trick us. ... Maybe the answer's zero.' Mr. Burger writes these and other guesses, which he draws out of more-hesitant students, on the board. He tells the class to come back on Tuesday for the answer.'

And if you, dear reader, want the answer, you'll have to read the original item in the Chronicle of Higher Education:

http://chronicle.com/article/Teaching-Math-as-Narrative/124770/?sid=at&utm_source=at&utm_medium=en

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Lee Teschler

Leland serves as Editor-in-Chief of Machine Design. He has 34 years of Service and holds a B.S. Engineering from the University of Michigan, a B.S. Electrical Engineering from the University of...
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