Vi Hart and her YouTube channel “Doodling in Math Class” are champions of easily accessible knowledge. The concept for her videos is that, while her math teacher is trying to explain a difficult mathematical concept to the uninterested class, Vi starts making up doodling games to keep herself occupied. As she continues to play, she makes up new rules for her games, trying to find ways to challenge herself. In the end, her doodle “game” looks more like an artistic application of whatever the teacher has been trying to explain. And, instead of absorbing it through conventional academic means, Vi has found the mathematical concept in her own way, at her own pace, and through something that allows her to explore with a sense of fun.
This video in particular seems fast-paced and dense, but this time the theme of her video isn’t focused on explaining mathematics. In whizzing by concept after concept, Vi emulates the rhythm of common academic education. You struggle to keep up with her, with where she’s going in the video, with the math that you are trying understand because what you’re currently seeing must only be a stepping block to the highest-level math you assume she’ll reach by the end. And it’s not until you actually get to the end that you realize she’s not really trying to teach math in this video at all. Her lesson this time is almost a manifesto for her channel, for her views on education: you can teach math by connecting the dots in straight lines, progressing in a single direction because that makes sense and it’s predictable and repeatable. But learning isn’t about prediction and it certainly isn’t about doing the same thing over and over again.
To make people want to learn, you need to explore new ways to connect dots.
Jake Turner is a theater student, advocate, and stage manager. He is blogging for Right Brain through the Performing Arts Advocacy Capstone class at Portland State University.