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The Power of Mathematical Visualization

Discover the advantages of seeing math from an entirely new angle, guided by a brilliant and engaging teacher.
The Power of Mathematical Visualization is rated 4.7 out of 5 by 74.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fantastic! This is really an amazing course; awesome and wonderful! Everyone should be exposed to the marvels of mathematical visualization from an early age. I enjoyed the class a great deal. Professor Tanton makes the class very enjoyable and engaging.
Date published: 2023-09-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Unique, Insightful Visualizing math interests me. Initially this course seemed a little too basic, but that changed fast. By lecture four I was hooked and it became a satisfying challenge to complete all 24 lectures. Prof. Tanton is a lot of fun and he blast his way into what, seemed to me, quiet complex math. I loved the dots and boxes, his approach to “place” and to binary were particularly helpful. His explanations of various infinites and random walks, to name a few, were also great. The course was not actually easy to get thru, which I like, as long I “get’ something. I had particular trouble with two of the lectures including the last (he was going fast). But watching several times and pausing a lot for note taking helped and L24 is amazing, with the division of jelly beans into a .001 (base 2) size pile. I recommend the course highly for Math strivers who enjoy a challenge.
Date published: 2023-07-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from excellent visuals This is a great course. As someone who was uncertain as to why my teachers taught me the addition/subtraction/multiplication/division algorithms that they did, I love Dr. Tanton's visual work and presentations. I wonder how/whether I can share this course with my 7th grader without undermining her math teacher's efforts.
Date published: 2022-08-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Mind-blowing, educational, and fun! Professor Tanton makes each lecture a joy to follow. He treats simple and complex mathematical problems as if they were puzzles. Through numerous illustrations and demos he identifies patterns and derives solutions. Then he uses those illustrations to prove why the technique he used works. He starts with simple arithmetic and numerical bases, then moves onto algebra and geometry, probability theory, quadratic equations, and beyond. He spends several amazing lectures demonstrating the many patterns inherent in Pascal's triangle and the Fibonacci number sequence. I wish I had been taught some of these techniques when I was learning math in elementary school through high school. Some of these methods are much easier to work with than the cryptic formulas we were forced to memorize. I enjoyed this course so much that I may repeat it. The instructor clearly is having fun in each lesson. Highly recommended!!!
Date published: 2022-03-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Prof gives enjoyable presentation I bought a used copy for myself, a new copy for my great gandkids and my grandson used the library copy. We all are enjoying the presentation. They are in high school and college so it gives them new ways to look at Math.
Date published: 2021-12-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding! Dr. Tanton does an amazing job at explaining and more importantly showing us several key topics of moderate-to-advance math. My 11 year old son who is pretty good at math for his age but doesn’t necessarily go in search of more math to do, has joined me for of these lectures on his own - with no pressure applied by me. When I asked him what kept him interested in the lecture, he told me that he thought that some of the math was challenging at first until Dr. Tanton explained it in visual terms which he enjoyed. I strongly recommend this course - especially if you have a teenager or younger student that you want to present math to in a different form where equations and memorization is not the goal. Some of the math is advance so I recommend that the viewer select areas they are more familiar with so that the visual aspects can be better appreciated. Enjoy!
Date published: 2021-11-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Light At The End of the Tunnel! I grew up with a maths teacher that was the same from first through twelfth grade! I never "got it" because she was rather obtuse and you never, ever questioned her...for any reason! Why..I would ask? "Because I SAID SO!" Needless to say I did not enjoy my math classes. But with my biology and chemistry teachers I understood the problems? Was it the teacher? Yes... and now at 70 I have found the teacher I wish that I would have had way back then. He makes the subject interesting, he makes it fun! and isn't that what learning should be? This is a thoroughly enjoyable course and I highly recommend it...whether you grew up mathematically challenged or not!
Date published: 2021-09-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Insights This is the second Professor Tanton course I have watched. The other was Geometry and was equally entertaining. Professor Tanton is one of my favorite mathematics professors along with Professor Edwards and Professor Benjamin. He is very easy to follow and has a warm and personable style. Although this may appear to be an elementary course based upon the lesson titles, the teachings are innovative. His ideas on exploding dots and division of polynomials are fresh and amazing. I have never seen a better explanation of Pascal's Triangle. If every professor was as engaging and creative as Professor Tanton, no one would hate math.
Date published: 2021-05-25
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World-renowned math educator Dr. James Tanton shows you how to think visually in mathematics, solving problems in arithmetic, algebra, geometry, probability, and other fields with the help of imaginative graphics that he designed. Also featured are his fun do-it-yourself projects using poker chips, marbles, strips of paper, and other props, designed to give you many eureka moments of mathematical insight.


James Tanton

Our complex society demands not only mastery of quantitative skills, but also the confidence to ask new questions, to explore, wonder, flail, to rely on ones wits, and to innovate. Let's teach joyous and successful thinking.


The Mathematical Association of America

Dr. James Tanton is the Mathematician in Residence at The Mathematical Association of America (MAA). He earned a Ph.D. in Mathematics from Princeton University. A former high school teacher at St. Mark's School in Southborough and a lifelong educator, he is the recipient of the Beckenbach Book Prize from the MAA, the George Howell Kidder Faculty Prize from St. Mark's School, and a Raytheon Math Hero Award for excellence in math teaching. Professor Tanton is the author of a number of books on mathematics including Solve This: Math Activities for Students and Clubs, The Encyclopedia of Mathematics, and Mathematics Galore! Professor Tanton founded the St. Mark's Institute of Mathematics, an outreach program promoting joyful and effective mathematics education. He also conducts the professional development program for Math for America in Washington, D.C.

By This Professor

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The Power of Mathematical Visualization


The Power of a Mathematical Picture

01: The Power of a Mathematical Picture

Professor Tanton reminisces about his childhood home, where the pattern on the ceiling tiles inspired his career in mathematics. He unlocks the mystery of those tiles, demonstrating the power of visual thinking. Then he shows how similar patterns hold the key to astounding feats of mental calculation....

34 min
Visualizing Negative Numbers

02: Visualizing Negative Numbers

Negative numbers are often confusing, especially negative parenthetical expressions in algebra problems. Discover a simple visual model that makes it easy to keep track of what's negative and what's not, allowing you to tackle long strings of negatives and positives-with parentheses galore....

29 min
Visualizing Ratio Word Problems

03: Visualizing Ratio Word Problems

Word problems. Does that phrase strike fear into your heart? Relax with Professor Tanton's tips on cutting through the confusing details about groups and objects, particularly when ratios and proportions are involved. Your handy visual devices include blocks, paper strips, and poker chips....

29 min
Visualizing Extraordinary Ways to Multiply

04: Visualizing Extraordinary Ways to Multiply

Consider the oddity of the long-multiplication algorithm most of us learned in school. Discover a completely new way to multiply that is graphical-and just as strange! Then analyze how these two systems work. Finally, solve the mystery of why negative times negative is always positive....

30 min
Visualizing Area Formulas

05: Visualizing Area Formulas

Never memorize an area formula again after you see these simple visual proofs for computing areas of rectangles, parallelograms, triangles, polygons in general, and circles. Then prove that for two polygons of the same area, you can dissect one into pieces that can be rearranged to form the other....

30 min
The Power of Place Value

06: The Power of Place Value

Probe the computational miracle of place value-where a digit's position in a number determines its value. Use this powerful idea to create a dots-and-boxes machine capable of performing any arithmetical operation in any base system-including decimal, binary, ternary, and even fractional bases....

33 min
Pushing Long Division to New Heights

07: Pushing Long Division to New Heights

Put your dots-and-boxes machine to work solving long-division problems, making them easy while shedding light on the rationale behind the confusing long-division algorithm taught in school. Then watch how the machine quickly handles scary-looking division problems in polynomial algebra....

29 min
Pushing Long Division to Infinity

08: Pushing Long Division to Infinity

"If there is something in life you want, then just make it happen!" Following this advice, learn to solve polynomial division problems that have negative terms. Use your new strategy to explore infinite series and Mersenne primes. Then compute infinite sums with the visual approach....

30 min
Visualizing Decimals

09: Visualizing Decimals

Expand into the realm of decimals by probing the connection between decimals and fractions, focusing on decimals that repeat. Can they all be expressed as fractions? If so, is there a straightforward way to convert repeating decimals to fractions using the dots-and-boxes method? Of course there is!...

32 min
Pushing the Picture of Fractions

10: Pushing the Picture of Fractions

Delve into irrational numbers-those that can't be expressed as the ratio of two whole numbers (i.e., as fractions) and therefore don't repeat. But how can we be sure they don't repeat? Prove that a famous irrational number, the square root of two, can't possibly be a fraction....

30 min
Visualizing Mathematical Infinities

11: Visualizing Mathematical Infinities

Ponder a question posed by mathematician Georg Cantor: what makes two sets the same size? Start by matching the infinite counting numbers with other infinite sets, proving they're the same size. Then discover an infinite set that's infinitely larger than the counting numbers. In fact, find an infinite number of them!...

30 min
Surprise! The Fractions Take Up No Space

12: Surprise! The Fractions Take Up No Space

Drawing on the bizarre conclusions from the previous lecture, reach even more peculiar results by mapping all of the fractions (i.e., rational numbers) onto the number line, discovering that they take up no space at all! And this is just the start of the weirdness....

29 min
Visualizing Probability

13: Visualizing Probability

Probability problems can be confusing as you try to decide what to multiply and what to divide. But visual models come to the rescue, letting you solve a series of riddles involving coins, dice, medical tests, and the granddaddy of probability problems that was posed to French mathematician Blaise Pascal in the 17th century....

31 min
Visualizing Combinatorics: Art of Counting

14: Visualizing Combinatorics: Art of Counting

Combinatorics deals with counting combinations of things. Discover that many such problems are really one problem: how many ways are there to arrange the letters in a word? Use this strategy and the factorial operation to make combinatorics questions a piece of cake....

34 min
Visualizing Pascal's Triangle

15: Visualizing Pascal's Triangle

Keep playing with the approach from the previous lecture, applying it to algebra problems, counting paths in a grid, and Pascal's triangle. Then explore some of the beautiful patterns in Pascal's triangle, including its connection to the powers of eleven and the binomial theorem....

32 min
Visualizing Random Movement, Orderly Effect

16: Visualizing Random Movement, Orderly Effect

Discover that Pascal's triangle encodes the behavior of random walks, which are randomly taken steps characteristic of the particles in diffusing gases and other random phenomena. Focus on the inevitability of returning to the starting point. Also consider how random walks are linked to the "gambler's ruin" theorem....

31 min
Visualizing Orderly Movement, Random Effect

17: Visualizing Orderly Movement, Random Effect

Start with a simulation called Langton's ant, which follows simple rules that produce seemingly chaotic results. Then watch how repeated folds in a strip of paper lead to the famous dragon fractal. Also ask how many times you must fold a strip of paper for its width to equal the Earth-Moon distance....

31 min
Visualizing the Fibonacci Numbers

18: Visualizing the Fibonacci Numbers

Learn how a rabbit-breeding question in the 13th century led to the celebrated Fibonacci numbers. Investigate the properties of this sequence by focusing on the single picture that explains it all. Then hear the world premiere of Professor Tanton's amazing Fibonacci theorem!...

34 min
The Visuals of Graphs

19: The Visuals of Graphs

Inspired by a question about the Fibonacci numbers, probe the power of graphs. First, experiment with scatter plots. Then see how plotting data is like graphing functions in algebra. Use graphs to prove the fixed-point theorem and answer the Fibonacci question that opened the lecture....

30 min
Symmetry: Revitalizing Quadratics Graphing

20: Symmetry: Revitalizing Quadratics Graphing

Throw away the quadratic formula you learned in algebra class. Instead, use the power of symmetry to graph quadratic functions with surprising ease. Try a succession of increasingly scary-looking quadratic problems. Then see something totally magical not to be found in textbooks....

31 min
Symmetry: Revitalizing Quadratics Algebra

21: Symmetry: Revitalizing Quadratics Algebra

Learn why quadratic equations have "quad" in their name, even though they don't involve anything to the 4th power. Then try increasingly challenging examples, finding the solutions by sketching a square. Finally, derive the quadratic formula, which you've been using all along without realizing it....

28 min
Visualizing Balance Points in Statistics

22: Visualizing Balance Points in Statistics

Venture into statistics to see how Archimedes' law of the lever lets you calculate data averages on a scatter plot. Also discover how to use the method of least squares to find the line of best fit on a graph....

30 min
Visualizing Fixed Points

23: Visualizing Fixed Points

One sheet of paper lying directly atop another has all its points aligned with the bottom sheet. But what if the top sheet is crumpled? Do any of its points still lie directly over the corresponding point on the bottom sheet? See a marvelous visual proof of this fixed-point theorem....

33 min
Bringing Visual Mathematics Together

24: Bringing Visual Mathematics Together

By repeatedly folding a sheet of paper using a simple pattern, you bring together many of the ideas from previous lectures. Finish the course with a challenge question that reinterprets the folding exercise as a problem in sharing jelly beans. But don't panic! This is a test that practically takes itself!...

32 min