Five Principles of Extraordinary Math Teaching | Dan Finkel | TEDxRainier

Five Principles of Extraordinary Math Teaching | Dan Finkel | TEDxRainier

Five Principles of Extraordinary Math Teaching | Dan Finkel | TEDxRainier

In this perspective-expanding and enjoyable talk, Dan Finkel invites us to approach learning and teaching math with courage, curiosity, and a sense of play.

Dan Finkel wants everyone to have fun with math. After completing his Ph.D. in algebraic geometry at the University of Washington, he decided that teaching math was the most important contribution he could make to the world. He has devoted much of his life to understanding and teaching the motivation, history, aesthetics, and deep structure of mathematics.

Dan is the Founder and Director of Operations of Math for Love, a Seattle-based organization devoted to transforming how math is taught and learned. A teacher of teachers and students, Dan works with schools, develops curriculum, leads teacher workshops, and gives talks on mathematics and education throughout the Pacific Northwest and beyond.

Dan is one of the creators of Prime Climb, the beautiful, colorful, mathematical board game. He contributes regularly to the New York Times Numberplay blog and hosts Seattle’s Julia Robinson Math Festival annually. In his spare time he performs improv comedy in Seattle.

This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at

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38 Responses to “Five Principles of Extraordinary Math Teaching | Dan Finkel | TEDxRainier”

  1. Clayton Farmer says:

    The right replace impressively hang because elizabeth univariably glow throughout a public corn. unusual, big chess

  2. Karm Esnom says:

    why do math textbooks always teach the wrong method before teaching the proper method? this has always confused me and made learning math super hard.
    it is like teaching someone how to drive by making them crash over and over before teaching them how to properly steer the car.

  3. rossana LeBlanc says:

    I figured it out too quickly and kept missing the points that he is making. Prime numbers gave it away instantly.

  4. Shammas Pm says:

    The every word came out from his mouth is to be quoted 👏

  5. Alfie Plant says:

    Are there any good websites with questions like the one used here. I'm tutoring a GCSE student at the moment and want some more captivating material?

  6. Eliane LUTY says:

    thank you very much

  7. Raivolt says:

    I'm commenting after you got to the 2nd of 5 points. You make such crazy great sense! Your list needs to be on TV commercials, radio, internet, everywhere! It can be applied to many, if not every aspect of life. You have left such a huge impact on me and there are still 3 more points I haven't heard! This is definitely one of the top 5 Ted talks I've seen! Thank you so much for the time and effort you put in to make this presentation! I'm going to share it as much as I can! Thank you again!!

  8. Jamie Mackie says:

    Yesssssssssssssssss this!

  9. Xavier Kreiss says:

    This is addressed to people who understand maths, not to those, like me,who don't, and who feel a physical sense of horror at the very thought of maths.

  10. Kabo Sekoele - Online Math Tutor says:

    Beautiful advice. I think the key is having the right mindset about learning. Its bigger than just attaining knowledge

  11. Daemon Larshus says:

    Spoiler–The number chart with the colors was prime factorization where the first several primes had different colors and then the non primes were made up of primes creating multi colors. Look at it again, pause, and you'll see.

  12. Rosa Victoria Cantú Rodríguez says:

    The Prime Climb numbers though 😀

  13. greatloverofmusic1 says:

    The solid colored numbers are primes?

  14. Vishal Tiwari says:


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  16. Vishal Tiwari says:


  17. Vishal Tiwari says:


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  19. greatloverofmusic1 says:

    I wish he was my math teacher as a kid & I really like math.

  20. Savage Novelist says:

    "What matters in math isn't if their answer is right, but if they have the understanding and logical arguments to that its right. After all, when they solve the Riemann Hypothesis, nobody is going to be able to say 'that's wrong, try again', they will be checking their reasoning. If the reasoning is faulty, that's when we know they're wrong." -Me.

  21. Craig Dunkleberger says:

    Every math teacher should see this! Too often we teach math the way we were taught. The only way to get kids to love math is to change the way instruction is delivered by following Dan’s five rules

  22. MARY CAVANAUGH says:

    Love this thinking, wish I had this in elementary school when I was younger.

  23. MatteTor says:

    This outlook on math has affected me deeply as a math teacher

  24. Jennie Linck says:

    Anyone else look at that pic and after a few seconds noticed that it was showing factors, the amount of orange squares is just how many factors of two, and all the solid colors are prime numbers?

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  26. Jami McClary says:


  27. Mark g says:

    What if there was a taco cat

  28. Mark g says:

    Why only have one math class? Have a math class for thinking, another math class for memorizing, another one for fluidity

  29. James Kiwanuka Katende Nkuubi says:

    We try to do too much too soon in class with emphasis on passing tests. If I can pass the test I don't need to learn more. And the system is happy with my grade.

  30. Viv Lee says:

    Most students who are good at maths based on grades are taught to be good at calculations given the equations and taught methods to solve problems, but may not necessarily understand maths.

  31. ram thami says:

    maths is some thing that a calculation in our daily life, some thing very new as we understand the concept make the best

  32. Arline George says:

    Indeed extraordinary ! Great talk . Thank you, bless you. All your dreams come true.

  33. Sanjay Kumar says:

    Very nice 👍 and thank you so much 🙏

  34. Nathaniel Barbado says:

    Dan: "… this is the failure of education…."
    Education system: Yes…. but No

  35. damian bla says:

    11:52 Very important words start here. You need much courage to ask such question as "What if there IS a number that, after squaring, gives negative one?" and to bring the humanity to the new mathematical world.

  36. Mat Cahill says:

    Before he gives the answer, reds are prime numbers, orange means 2 green 3, blue five and the colours around them are what you multiply to get that number

    It's basically just a numbering system that uses colour rather than symbols, like rainbow binary

  37. Larry Mintz says:

    2+2=4 in modula 4 and above arithmetic

  38. Larry Mintz says:

    Not knowing-not failure love it. I wish I knew this 20 years ago when studying certain topics in real analysis

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