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Humor & Mathematics
Posted:
Sep 5, 1995 1:53 PM


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



