Watching TV and planning lessons?

Whether it’s picking the trigger happy judge on The Voice or the next raw egg in Jimmy Fallon’s Egg Roulette, television shows are rich with potential lessons for your classroom.

As a Maths teacher, I use my powers of finding what the students enjoy and ruining it with what they hate – maths problems. I have students guess outcomes or predict trends and then allow them to use mathematics to teach them how bad at guessing they are.

As an average Joe, I love watching trashy TV shows and literally any form of comedy. So it’s no surprise that when I’m watching television, my mind is ticking about how I can use the entertainment on my television screen on the projector in my classroom.

The pedagogy I use to make all of this possible (i.e. the method to my madness) is called Problem Based Learning. I have blogged about this before, but as WordPress is so efficient at telling me, nobody has read it. And despite the fact that I could get my students to show me that it is statistically impossible that anyone will read this post either, I’m still going to describe how it is changing the way I teach, the way my students learn, and how they see mathematical problems (on their test papers and in real life).

So… Back to Jimmy Fallon. This guy is damn good at what he does. He makes people laugh and have a damn good time. In teaching, that can be a very powerful trait. I decided to use the games that he plays with his guests on his show in my classroom by integrating mathematical problems into them. I use these to introduce skills in probability and statistics using Egg Roulette and Slapjack, and ask my students to analyse the problems while having a laugh along the way.

Then again, not everyone finds Jimmy Fallon as funny as I do. Some students enjoy watching singing and talent contests like The Voice. I have also taught my students probability through episodes of Delta Goodrem continuously slamming her button more times than any of the other, more experienced judges.

Or, if sport is more your students’ flavour, predict AFL match results using polynomials or predict Usain Bolt’s next World Record using Differential Calculus.

If you’re a Movie buff, then maybe you want to delve into how Sauron would be able to track down the location of the ring using Normal Distributions. Maybe even looking into the Battle of Helm’s Deep or the Wall of Game of Thrones using quadratic functions.

I have all of these kind of Problem Based Learning resources free and available to share:

If you’re a teacher in South Australia, I am starting a Professional Learning Community, which is free to join and collaborate with, aimed at looking further into innovative pedagogy in mathematics for all year levels. The first event is at the Australian Science & Mathematics School on December the 4th from 12pm-3pm. Free registration here:


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