Date: Sep 5, 1995 1:53 PM
Author: Ronald A Ward
Subject: Humor & Mathematics

I am developing a compendium of humor and related classroom behaviors 
which can be used effectively to improve a teacher's ability to convey
mathematics to students. Although I am, of course, researching the academic
literature on humor, I am also interested in receiving personal anecdotes,
comments, reactions, suggestions from practitioners. I invite your
replies [to me directly] in any of the following three areas of

1. What mathematical ideas are funny, to whom, under what
circumstances, and why? What are the types of humor that lend themselves
particularly well to math and how effective are they? [For example, the
pun is quite popular. Some cartoon strips frequently treat math topics.
Many limericks are relevant, as are nonsense logic and some riddles.
Most teachers seem to be less familiar with literary devices such as
parody and satire.]

2. What types of classroom behavior techniques can be used to
humorous advantage? Can sarcasm be used at all? Bantering, mocking or
teasing? If so, is it advisable? I suspect that instructors with the
right kind of personalities might use such behavior effectively.

3. What is the impact on students of employing humor in the teaching
of mathematics? Can the literature [or practice] demonstrate increased
learning or a better attitude toward mathematics? A better relationship
between instructor and student?

Thanks for your input. I will retain your name and supply you with a
copy of the final product.

Ron Ward/Western Washington U/Bellingham, WA 98225