BenOrlin-37I love math and teaching, and I can’t draw. That much you could probably deduce from first principles.

Other (more elusive) facts: my name is Ben Orlin; I live in Saint Paul, Minnesota with my wife and daughter; I go by he/him; and I am very excited about my two books, Math with Bad Drawings (2018) and Change is the Only Constant (2019).

I have taught every level of mathematics from ages 12 to 18, with occasional spells teaching Psychology, Biology, English, Theory of Knowledge, and even Earth Science (the latter to no one’s benefit, least of all the Earth’s). And I’ve spoken all across the U.S.

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

Here’s some coverage of CHANGE IS THE ONLY CONSTANT:

Here’s some coverage of MATH WITH BAD DRAWINGS:

Here’s some of my stuff as it’s appeared at other web sites and publications:

And here are other 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”:

177 thoughts on “About

  1. Your books look intriguing. I have a son who loves math but chose to get his bachelor’s degree in chemistry and his Master’s in physics. He was three years into the doctor program in physics when he was arrested. I would like to send him your books in prison but I can only find hardcover in their expensive. Do you know where I can find them used? Thank you.

    1. There should be used copies on Amazon, for maybe 2/3 the price of new. Does the prison have a library? I could try seeing if there’s a way to have a copy donated.

  2. What percentage of high school students fail to graduate, because they could not do the two-column proof?

  3. Excellent read. I’ve re-established my love and confusion (isn’t love always confusing) with mathematics and your book (C) is helping me back in. Gotta admit I stopped enjoying mathematics around the time of double and line integrals…

    Medium just published a very good view of the applications of calculus to “everyday” life:

    1. URL getting dropped. Maybe this will work – (prepend your own https : )

  4. I just read “What it feels like to be bad at math” and burst into tears when I read this: “I tell my story to illustrate that failure isn’t about a lack of “natural intelligence,” whatever that is. Instead, failure is born from a messy combination of bad circumstances: high anxiety, low motivation, gaps in background knowledge.”

    Thank you for such honest, truthful and hilarious words! The child I used to be really appreciated reading them, knowing she was never stupid for not “getting” math, she was just very scared.

  5. Hi, I’m unschooling a 12 year old. She does not enjoy being taught math in most forms but absolutely loves solving math challenges that nobody ever taught her how to do. We enjoyed reading your book together. Do you know of any resources where I could find some cool challenges to give her?

    1. Great question! Some thoughts:

      Brilliant.org has great problems.

      For geometry, the books Area Mazes and Geometry Snacks are fun, and I love Catriona Shearer’s work (@cshearer41 on Twitter).

      Alex Bellos has several good books of problems.

      YouTube channels like Numberphile and Cracking the Cryptic offer various pleasures.

      Teacher resources like Dan Meyer’s 3 Act Tasks, Fawn Nguyen’s Visual Patterns, Robert Kaplinksy’s Open Middles, and Jenna Laib’s Slow Reveal Graphs could be delivered by a parent pretty smoothly.

    2. Oh, I should also mention math game sites like those of Denise Gaskins, John Golden, Marilyn Burns, and Dan Finkel (all easily Googled).

  6. Do you sell posters of your work anywhere? Some of these would be fun to hang in my office. Especially “Why Not to Trust Statistics.”

  7. I am hoping to receive the cards from my Kickstarter pledge. I think my messages through Kickstarter must not be reaching you. The book was an excellent gift for my math teacher sister, and I would like for her to have the cards as well. Thanks.

  8. MWBD. First – a fantastic book, now my second favourite behind Wells “Curious and Interesting Numbers” – the calculus book is up next on my reading list.. The Last .400 Hitter. The baseball box score was likely derived, conceptually, from the cricket scoring template which tells the story of a cricket match ball by ball. You mention that cricketer Brian Lara’s 400 runs without being out is a record. That’s true in international cricket, but at the comparative level of MLB, the same Brian Lara holds the record too – 501 not out in 1994. At the high school equivalent level, AEJ Collins’s 628 not out stood as the record until 2016 when Pranav Dhanawade scored 1009. Perhaps Lara’s 501 should be mentioned in the next edition? Bracketology. In 1974-75 (page 311 for reference) the top UK income taxa rate hit 98%. And for many years the Surtax in the UK was assessed in such a way that the bracketeology demon DID apply – but was relived by a mechanism called Marginal Tax Relief which could only have come from the desk of a professional sadist in a dark room at Inland Revenue HQ. I am pretty sure, also, that in the early 60s, the income tax rate, including surtax and special charge, actually exceeded 100% on certain types of revenue – mainly investment income. Have been unable to prove this, but might try again sometime. Annoying Nitpickers Club – I guess I must be a member, and if this is the 477th trime you have heard all the above, sincere apologies.

    1. Thanks so much for this! To be on any shelf with “Curious and Interesting Numbers” is a great honor.

      Much appreciated on the cricket corrections. I speak wobbly conversational cricket at best, and should clearly have run that chapter by a fluent expert such as yourself.

  9. Hi, first of all, thank you so much for your work! I especially love your book “Math Games with bad drawings”, the games have saved many train rides with my kids. Since in one post, you mentioned that there is a demanding populace, I thought I could contribute to that because I have been having an idea for quite a while: When I am in the train, I have a hard time remembering the game that I wanted to play. How about you (or someone else?) would create an app from the book in which you can enter maybe the number of players, their minimum age, and maybe the topic and the app selects all the appropriate games? It should not be too complicated, should it? Anyhow, also without the app, I recommend the book to everyone I know and would like to thank you again!

    Best wishes from Switzerland


  10. Hi,

    We want to clarify some math on pages 169 to 170. We’d like to send you a detailed write up on our understanding and how it differs from yours. Please send us your email address so we can send you our write up.

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