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

investigation:

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

ronaward@henson.cc.wwu.edu