Humor in Classroom (IGNITE talk)

Katrina: If I were a shape, I’d be a square.
Dr. Morton: Why?
Katrina: Because then I’d be right no matter which way I went.

Work–and learning can be work–does not have to be dull and tedious. In fact, when a task is interesting or linked with something interesting, we focus more, try harder, and don’t let setbacks prevent us from getting up again. As attributed to Aristotle, “Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work.” Sometimes, education could use a bit of fun for both the teacher and the student. One day early in my teaching career, I realized halfway through a lecture that I was dreadfully bored and couldn’t remember what I’d just said. I thought to myself, “If I’m bored, how will the students ever discover that not only can they learn math, but it just might be fun sometimes?” I began a journey of injecting humor in the classroom, not only for humor’s sake, but also for the sake of better educating. The following slides accompany a short talk I gave about what I learned along the way:

Humor in the Mathematics Classroom

Note many of the images, concepts, and jokes are subject to copyright (not mine), so these slides should be used for educational purposes only. There are plenty of random online searches that led to the math jokes used in the slides and in my classes. Most sources I never documented or were shared without documentation where I found them. Some of the jokes were also contributed by students. However, for those of you who need a reputable source for the claims of the benefits of educational humor, check out:

  • David L. Neumann, Michelle Hood & Michelle M. Neumann (2009). Statistics? You Must be Joking: The Application and Evaluation of Humor when Teaching Statistics. Journal of Statistics Education, 17:2, DOI: 10.1080/10691898.2009.11889525
  • Barbara Oakley (2014). A Mind for Numbers: How to Excel at Math and Science (Even If You Flunked Algebra). The Penguin Group, New York

If you would like to hear the talk, it is available in mp4 format. I am happy (and perhaps mildly embarrassed) to send it to you privately.