I 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:
- The New Scientist called it “a cartoon triumph.”
- Math Frolic named it the Best Math Book of 2019.
- The chapter “1994, the Year Calculus Was Invented” appears in The Best Writing on Mathematics, 2020 from Princeton University Press.
- Ars Technica featured an interview with me and a personality quiz I wrote to decide whether you are a Newton or a Leibniz.
- I had fun doing interviews with the podcasts Talk Nerdy, My Favorite Theorem, Breaking Math and Culture Cafe.
- BBC Science Focus published an excerpt titled Archimedes: Inventor of war machines and calculus (almost).
- I wrote a piece for CM, my high school’s alumni magazine, on the connection between mathematics and inside jokes.
- Leading educator Jo Boaler adapted the chapter “Sherlock Holmes and the Bicycle of Misdirection” into a lesson plan.
- The Mathematical Association of America reviewer called it a “thoroughly enjoyable read, even to the point of giggles.”
- Geek Dad called my drawings “crude,” then noted “they’ve even drawn in my 7-year-old, who has been reading parts of the books over my shoulder.”
- Award-winning math teacher Patrick Honner described it as “simultaneously high brow and goofy, deep and easy going, important and self-deprecating, but always fun and enlightening. In other words, it’s uniquely Ben Orlin.”
Here’s some coverage of MATH WITH BAD DRAWINGS:
- Excerpts: What does math look like to mathematicians? (Popular Science); The Ten Types of People Who Buy Lottery Tickets (Vox)
- Reviews: Ars Technica; Hampshire Daily Gazette; 3 Quarks Daily; Math Frolic; American Scientist; Dimension (in Finnish; it includes the phrase “self-humiliation as a means of pedagogical effectiveness,” which I would like tattooed across my face).
- Interviews: Freakonomics Radio; Google Talks; Yale Alumni Magazine; Whad’Ya Know; The John and Heidi Show; Gonit Sora; Breaking Math; Read Science!; Inside the Black Box; WAMC Roundtable; Intelligence Unshackled
Here’s some of my stuff as it’s appeared at other web sites and publications:
- The Atlantic: When Memorization Gets in the Way of Learning; Why Do Private School Teachers Make Less Money?; How I Became an Unfair Teacher; I Lie About My Teaching
- Los Angeles Times: Why I Won’t Reenlist as a Yale Alumni Interviewer
- Slate: You’re Not Stupid. You’re Slow; How to Fix the SAT: Give Out Fewer Scores; We’re Giving the Wrong Dr. Seuss Book for Graduation
- Vox: What journalists, weather forecasters, and Han Solo get wrong about probability
- Journal of Humanistic Mathematics: Nine Mathematical Ways of Watching a Baseball Game
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”:
- WordPress Discover (wherein the gracious Ben Huberman somehow manages to suggest that I have an “acumen” of any kind)
- Math Frolic and Math Frolic again (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)
- I’m quoted briefly in this story on the struggles of the Canadian lottery to attract players during the coronavirus pandemic.
171 thoughts on “About”
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.
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.
Hi Ben Just bought MwbD.
Great book and excellent drawings
Hi Ben Just bought MwbD.
Great book and excellent drawings
What percentage of high school students fail to graduate, because they could not do the two-column proof?
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:
URL getting dropped. Maybe this will work – (prepend your own https : )
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.
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?
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.
Oh, I should also mention math game sites like those of Denise Gaskins, John Golden, Marilyn Burns, and Dan Finkel (all easily Googled).
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.”
Ah, it’s a good idea! I’ve never yet gotten my act together to put these up for sale – feel free to print out copies in the meantime.
It would be fun to imagine how you might think Neanderthals got ’round to coming up with a notion of number.
How did neandertals learn to count:
Greatt reading your blog post
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.