Math Motivators

The Power of Humor in Math Education

When you think of math class, “laughter” might not be the first word that comes to mind. However, incorporating humor into math lessons can significantly enhance students’ engagement, comprehension, and retention of mathematical concepts. In this blog post, we’ll explore how teachers can infuse humor into their math instruction while also connecting mathematical concepts to the real world.Work Harder Neon Sign

1. Embrace the Power of Puns and Jokes

One of the simplest ways to add humor to math lessons is through the use of puns, jokes, and witty wordplay. Introduce mathematical concepts with clever puns or share math-related jokes to lighten the mood and capture students’ attention. For example, “Why was the math book sad? Because it had too many problems!”

2. Incorporate Funny Math Memes and Cartoons

Math memes and cartoons abound on the internet and can serve as valuable teaching tools. Share funny math memes or cartoons that illustrate mathematical concepts in a humorous way. These visual aids not only entertain students but also provide memorable examples that help reinforce learning.

3. Create Funny Math Problems

Turn math problems into humorous scenarios or incorporate silly elements into problem-solving exercises. For example, instead of asking students to calculate the speed of a car traveling from point A to point B, pose a problem about a snail racing a tortoise and ask students to calculate which one wins the race. Adding humor to math problems makes them more engaging and relatable to students.

4. Use Math Puzzles and Riddles

Challenge students with math puzzles and riddles that require critical thinking and problem-solving skills while also eliciting laughs. Encourage students to solve brain teasers or riddles with mathematical solutions, such as the classic “Why was six afraid of seven? Because seven eight (ate) nine!”

5. Connect Math to Real-World Examples

Humor becomes even more effective when it’s paired with real-world relevance. Connect mathematical concepts to everyday situations or funny anecdotes that students can relate to. For instance, when teaching fractions, use pizza slices as a humorous analogy or discuss the importance of budgeting and money management using humorous scenarios.

6. Share Funny Math Stories

Share amusing stories or anecdotes related to mathematicians, mathematical discoveries, or historical mathematical events. These stories not only entertain students but also provide context and humanize the subject matter. For example, recount the tale of Archimedes shouting “Eureka!” while taking a bath and discovering the principle of buoyancy.

7. Encourage Student Participation

Finally, encourage students to contribute their own math-related jokes, puns, or funny stories. Create a classroom culture where laughter is welcomed and appreciated, fostering a positive and supportive learning environment. Students will be more engaged and enthusiastic about math when they feel encouraged to share their humor and creativity.

Humor has the power to transform math education by making concepts more accessible, engaging, and memorable for students. By embracing the use of puns, jokes, memes, funny problems, real-world connections, stories, and student participation, teachers can create a classroom environment where laughter and learning go hand in hand. So let’s add a dash of humor to our math lessons and watch as students’ enjoyment and understanding of mathematics soar to new heights!

Some Examples For You

From my experience as a math teacher, being a little creative can go a long way in the classroom. Humor and connecting math to the real world also helps. Below are some of my teaching strategies for motivating students to learn. Parents and students may also want to read this article.

Throw Your Paper Airplane!

This is no joke. I once taught a high school geometry class with some tough kids in it. One day, I brought in large colored labels, and had the students move all the desks and chairs to the corners of the room. I placed two long rows of colored labels on the floor. Then I asked the most disruptive student to make and throw a paper airplane, using the labels as a runway for landing it. This was a hands-on lesson on the locus (set) of points equidistant from two parallel lines.

Students Asking for Homework?

Yes, they really did! When teaching a unit on Geometry and Measurement to a seventh grade class, I presented creative, real-world problems at the chalkboard. We solved one problem on area of a circle by standing in a circle with a stick and some string. As I went to assign homework from the textbook, the class eagerly asked if they could create their own problems instead. They were so enthusiastic that I changed the assignment. The next day, the students proudly read their problems aloud –even those who rarely did their homework! The instructional value of this student-created assignment proved to be far more than I had expected!

Facilitating the Need to Learn

After introducing prime and composite numbers through 100, I asked my class to determine if the numbers 517, 623 and 641 were prime or composite. Students groaned about having to find all the factors of these large numbers. I offered to let them use calculators to speed up the process, but they still groaned. Finally, the class asked if there was a a better way to do this. So I introduced divisibility tests, and they were happy to learn this new topic!

Seizing That Teachable Moment

I was in the middle of teaching a math lesson, when a student asked me “When are we ever going to use this math?” He seemed quite serious, so I stopped the lesson, and gave an example of how farmers use systems of linear equations to calculate the costs of cultivating crops.

Letting Your Students Decide

Kids take real ownership when allowed to make decisions. But what decisions can we entrust them with? At the beginning of each marking period, I assign students to cooperative learning groups. I choose the partners for each group, but each group gets to choose a unique group name. Thus, each group has made its first joint decision. For more information and ideas, read my article on Cooperative Learning Techniques.

More Strategies

There are many other ways to motivate students. I like to connect math to the real world, as outlined in my article Math Connections. Being creative and using humor are effective ways to keep students interested. Read Creative Teaching Ideas for more information.