In this new world of home schooling and zoom lessons, YouTube has proven an unlikely but successful tutor for many. More often that not you can search for a topic at any level of study and there will be some kind person who can share wisdom on the area in a clear and easy to follow way.
Unfortunately what many of them lack is a bit of excitement. Some fun facts or flying graphics is about as much as they can offer, so no matter how much you might like seeing trigonometry in action, it will eventually get a bit dull.
Or so I thought.
Whilst researching Euler’s identity I stumbled upon ‘Equations Stripped: Euler’s Identity (the most beautiful equation in maths)’ by ‘Tom Rocks Maths’. A seemingly innocent video where a tattooed young man with bleached blonde hair and an ear stretcher would ‘strip’ back the identity to provide some insight for curious students. On further inspection of his channel, I discovered that Tom was in fact Dr Tom, a mathematician with a PhD from Oxford University, and so despite not presenting himself as a stereotypical mathematician (whatever that means) I felt assured by his impressive credentials.
To start he chatted away about the significance of Euler’s identity and its profound beauty in mathematics. He was enthusiastic but it was all quite generic, and so as usual I felt my interest starting to slip away.
Then the stripping started.
The constants of Euler’s identity were stripped back to their Taylor series expansion and to emphasize this even more literally Tom’s t-shirt had vanished.
Personally I’m not embarrassed to admit that I really do love maths. I think about it a lot and can’t deny the beauty of formula such as Euler’s identity – however at no point has Taylor’s series made me want to take my top off.
As crude as this all may seem Tom didn’t skip a beat. He continued to talk through the expansion of sine and cosine, either unaware or not bothered that he was now addressing his fans half naked. Ploughing through the rest of the video, he confidently derived the identity and gave some useful visualizations of its applications. From a mathematical perspective, it was spot on (as you might expect from someone with a PhD from Oxford).
In the saturated market that is YouTube tutorials it’s clearly important to have a USP. However innocent as Tom’s nudity is there must be a more subtle way to inspire young people’s interest in the joys of pure mathematics. I’m all for making maths fun and reaching a wider audience, and while ‘Tom Rocks Maths’’ 11,000 YouTube subscribers may disagree, simply taking your trousers off for more viewers seems a bit of a cop-out. What would Euler think!
Fortunately despite the prospect of having to teach online for the foreseeable future, none of my lecturers have followed Tom’s example in experimenting with their dress code (or lack of). It’s times like these we must appreciate that maths can be boring… but it’s probably best left that way.
Blog by - Lucy chats maths