Review by Emily Pohlonski, Common Sense Education | Updated December 2014


Expert interviews, whimsical images illustrate the wide world of math

Subjects & skills
  • Math

  • Critical Thinking
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
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Pros: Engaging film clips illustrate how math helps people make sense of the world.

Cons: Not all videos are classroom-appropriate.

Bottom Line: Energetic video explanations bring key math concepts and fun facts to life.

Numberphile videos work best if teachers engage students in discussing the problems' solutions along the way. For example, teachers need to be ready to press the pause button at the right time to let kids try to solve the problem and discuss their various explanations. After this discussion, continue to play the video that clearly explains the answer. When discussing puzzles, students should make a clear claim and back it up with evidence and reasoning, just as the CCSS demand. Numberphile is also great for kids who are simply curious about math. By linking the site to your classroom website, you can connect kids to a place where they can explore their own math interests outside of school.

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Numberphile is a free site featuring short math films created by Australian video journalist Brady Haran. Sponsored by organizations including the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute, Numberphile videos feature mathematicians describing interesting mathematics scenarios and insights. Problems featured are designed to be engaging and spark animated discussion. Users can browse the videos on this site (by tapping illustrations that symbolize each video's content) or explore the same content via the developer's YouTube channel (by using that site's search features to browse by topic and title).

There's some great content in these videos, but it can be tough to find. Navigating the website's front page is tricky; each whimsical illustration links to a video, but it can be hard to use this systematically with students. The Text Index provides titles and descriptors but still lacks a clear organization system. Additionally, not all videos are appropriate for the classroom; for example, “The Stable Marriage Problem” is an interesting example of a constructive proof, but the presenter swears during her explanation. 

Once you do find the videos you're looking for, you'll hit gold: Kids can learn about probability with the classic Monty Hall problem or discover fun facts about Pi for math lovers. Kids who love math will be enthralled; others will be surprised to see the many places math appears in their world. While Numberphile is missing classroom support tools on its own site, other online communities like TED-Ed offer solid lessons around some videos. With some careful screening and thoughtful context, teachers could build their own tasks that utilize these well-crafted, engaging videos.

Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

Videos feature engaging problems that kids will want to solve. The site can be tough to search, so it's best suited to a kid inclined to hunt around independently.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

Pedagogical appropriateness is highly dependent on the video: Some are perfect hooks to complement a classroom lecture, while others let kids passively view interesting math facts.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

Numberphile is featured on other sites like YouTube and TED-Ed, providing additional ways to extend student learning. Since the videos are on YouTube, they have closed captioning in multiple languages.

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Emily Pohlonski Classroom teacher

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