My name is Ben Orlin. I like math, jokes, and teaching. I can’t draw. That much you could probably guess.

This blog is about the things I like. It’s also about the things I can’t do. I hope that the juxtaposition here – carefully edited writing alongside art that my wife (charitably) likens to “the average 6th grader” – captures the contradictory state of the teacher, of the mathematician – and, what the hell, of the human. We are all simultaneously experts and beginners, flaunting our talents while trying to cover our shortcomings the way an animal hides a wound.

You could call this a “math blog” or a “teaching blog” or “a webcomic interrupted from time to time by essays,” but I would call it a project about owning up to weakness and drawing strength from successes, however transient or trivial they may seem.

Other facts: I live in Northampton, MA. Before that, I taught in Oakland, CA and Birmingham, UK. I’ve taught every level of mathematics from ages 12 to 18, as well as Psychology, Biology, English, Theory of Knowledge, and even (in a dubious feat of strange scheduling) Earth Science.

To email me, just use the name of the blog at gmail. Or follow me on Twitter (#mathwithbadhashtags). I love to hear from readers, whether you stumbled here accidentally or are my college roommate Michael Wayne. (Hey, Michael Wayne!)

While we’re at it, here’s some of my stuff as it’s appeared at other web sites and publications:

And here are interviews with me, in case you want to hear people ask the tough questions like “what’s wrong with your drawings” and “why Ben why”:

  • WordPress Discover (wherein the gracious Ben Huberman somehow manages to suggest that I have an “acumen” of any kind)
  • Math Frolic (wherein the wonderful Shecky calls me “Math Blogging’s Bill Watterson” – a horrible slander against the great Bill Watterson)
  • Challenging Opinions Podcast (wherein the eminently fair William Campbell proposes that maybe I hire four-year-olds to do my drawings for me)
  • Top Craft Bloggers Share Their Tips for Online Success (wherein I give a few quotes, despite the words “top” and “craft” being quite ill-suited to me)

124 thoughts on “About

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  4. I just stumbled across your blog by accident, as I had an idea of annotating bite size science with bad drawings (as I can’t draw!). And I googled “bad drawings” to see what kind of bad drawings are out there and how I will fair! I love your drawings and your humour! This is an excellent blog.

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  6. Wish your blog was around when I was in High school! But found it just in time to share with my son! Thank you!!

  7. Pingback: Statistics – Understanding vs. Deceiving | CasioEducation Blog

  8. Ben Orlin, you are a wonderful, wonderful teacher, and a brilliant science communicator. I’m a theoretical physics grad student, so I’m fairly comfortable and familiar with the math you discuss, but your perspective and grace on these topics is nevertheless invaluable.

    I hope to be standing in front of a classroom myself in a few years, and any time I’m stuck on how to do something, I’m gonna go, “What would Ben Orlin do?”

    This sounds like fanboy gushing, and it is, but I just really love this blog.

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  10. “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” (Author??)

    I believe this. Your humor, excellent writing, and unique perspective continue to open my mind, challenge me to draw connections between ideas, and inspire me to be a more gracious teacher. THANKS!

  11. Pingback: Math with bad drawings, (alguna vez) en castellano | Más ideas, menos cuentas. Un blog sobre educación matemática.

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  13. Very interesting pieces. The LA Times piece hits home as I have a ‘Senior’ getting ready to apply for university. The Memorization vs. Learning piece is an issue that I have long contemplated and at times railed against….since I’m raising two teenagers here in the UK (who have done the entirety of their education in England, though we’re also American)….and one has a great memory and the other does not. Great food for thought. Thank you!

  14. Hello, Ben

    We’re contacting you to introduce WordPress app for mac which is called WeBlog. We’ve been making it since 1.3years ago and now it’s almost there. And we are trying to find good bloggers who could give us their voice and feedback. So we could make it better and give it back to bloggers.

    If you use mac and interested in the WeBlog then please consider join the Beta Program. Here is the relevant post.

    Thank you for reading this.
    Happy blogging!

    – Jusung

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  16. Hi Ben –

    Can I use one of your probability images to link to your blog in my online Math course?

    Thank you!
    Barbie Pilla
    North Carolina Virtual Public School

  17. Man.
    You is fun.
    I like silly and smart.
    Cuz you can get it. Someone can get it. Come and get it.

    That’s all. Thanks. I like you’re attitood.
    Cuz (again) I can feel the kindness in it.

  18. Just started reading your blog and have been greatly impressed by the quality of the thought that has gone into the writing.
    WRT the memorization problem I find that there is no agreement on what the facts a student should know(e.g. 7×6=?) without having to stop and work them out or look them up every time they go to use them. Sine pi/2 isn’t the problem but 7×6 certainly is.
    The link to ‘Challenging Opinions Podcast’ gives a ‘404 Not Found’ error.

  19. I love your blog and (honestly) love your drawings, trust me, bad drawing is the opposite of this, if i tried to make a comic strip or anything my characters would NOT look the same in every frame, just sayin’ 🙂

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