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## Donald in Mathmagic Land – Motivating Maths Students

When I started teaching high school math in the mid-1960s, the teaching pedagogy was what was called “chalk and talk.” There was little attempt by traditional mathematics teachers to use any other teaching approach. I have to admit that I was trained in elementary school to teach the whole variety of subjects in my class. This continued with my transfer to a high school. There I taught several general subjects: English, science, history and geography, as well as mathematics. So my range of teaching strategies was wide.

Mathematics in high school is usually a compulsory subject. Many students cannot see its relevance to their lives or find it too difficult, especially when the “boogie man”, Algebra, comes on the scene. So, to capture the attention of my whole class, I used a variety of approaches, including quizzes, radio and television, as well as films. This brings me to the Walt Disney movie, “Donald in Mathmagic Land.”

I discovered it by chance while looking through a catalog of films available to use in your math classes. I decided to borrow it from the state film library to use with my junior high school classes. I didn’t quite know what to expect. It was a pleasant surprise and exactly what I needed to show my classes the relevance of math to their lives and how much math brought to life as they knew it. Here is a summary of the film which you can find on YouTube.

Donald’s goes on an adventure that explains how math can be useful in real life. Through this journey it is shown how numbers are more than charts and graphs, they are geometry, music and magical living things.

There are so many ideas in the movie that you miss a lot of them when you watch it for the first time. Often, when I could borrow the film, I would show it a second time telling my classes what to watch. The film was excellent as a motivational force. So I encouraged fellow teachers to show it to their classes at the beginning of the year. When I became head of a math department in the mid-1980s, I tracked down the film and was able to purchase a cassette tape of the film to add to my math resource center. school

The film shows pictorially many ideas that the teacher can only explain verbally, making it easier for students to understand the concepts and see their relevance to everyday life.

The most interesting development for me as a teacher was that it motivated me to make the teaching of mathematics as exciting as I could and broadened my understanding of the contribution that mathematics makes to our human society. It also showed my students and me the beauty of mathematics. In fact, when a problem came up that I did on the board that the students weren’t expecting, especially in Algebra, my comment to the class was “Math is beautiful.”

I used this movie in my eighth through tenth grade high school classes. I’m sure it could be used in earlier years when students’ interest in math starts to wane. I think every school should have a copy of this film and make sure every student sees it at least once in their school career.

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