I am recently into a sort of teaching which I shall term "Random Teaching". It involves:

  1. Asking student for a random word (not related to math remotely, say "cake")

  2. Preforming a youtube search with that word + "math"

  3. Selecting a mathematical video featuring the search

Do you think I shall use this form of teaching? Should I try? Are there any ways I can improve this form of teaching?


Due to the answers and comments I feel obligated to add the following:

  • I am not teaching for a school
  • I do not have a specific goal except to keep the student, say, interested in mathematics
  • I am doing a 1 to 1 online tutoring class
  • I teach a sixth grader but I tend to wander to higher-level topics, for instance, trigonometry, matrices, vectors, and occasionally even calculus. It's more like a $\Large\text{special interest club}$.
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    $\begingroup$ You have not said anything about why you chose to do this. I am curious about your reasons. I don't think we can answer this question without understanding the goals of this process. $\endgroup$
    – Sue VanHattum
    Commented Jun 7, 2022 at 17:52
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    $\begingroup$ Why would you deem this kind of thing "teaching"? It sounds like it might be fun, but what is your goal with it? $\endgroup$
    – Nick C
    Commented Jun 7, 2022 at 17:59
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    $\begingroup$ Just tried to google "youtube crocodile+math" to see what would come up. There are a few decent videos about counting and comparison of numbers but nothing above the kindergarten level. So I would say that if you are teaching really small kids, that may be a fun activity to diversify the curriculum when you feel that the kids get bored but beyond that level it doesn't look really useful though you may hit something interesting occasionally (with "cake", you may go into fair cake division protocols, for example). $\endgroup$
    – fedja
    Commented Jun 7, 2022 at 19:47
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    $\begingroup$ @NickC The idea could arguably be fun and workable if it were an independent student inquiry project. Maybe you assign something like this for extra credit before a week-long break with a well-designed structure for the student to reflect on what they discovered, and then have a space for brief student presentations the first few minutes when break is over. But there is a key difference here. Students are fully capable of putting "cake math" into a YouTube search window on their own time, so there is no valid reason for it to be taking up instructional time IMO. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 7, 2022 at 21:01
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    $\begingroup$ "I am recently into a sort of teaching" - you are recently WHAT into a sort of teaching? $\endgroup$
    – Rusty Core
    Commented Jun 9, 2022 at 3:00

2 Answers 2


So the only questions I think are relevant are, in order:

  1. Does you student enjoy this approach?
  2. Does whoever is paying your salary (the parents?) appreciate this approach?
  3. Can you demonstrate that this approach is improving the student's mathematical abilities and/or interest?

If yes to all those, then go for it. If it's working for your student, then it is working.

Of course you have to be open and clear to yourself on how you evaluate if it's working. Do you, for instance, have the student tell (or better, write a short paragraph) on what they learned from each of these "random video" connections? Do you have some sort of metric to showed either increased engagement or ability (or grades if that is the goal) over time?


I found that using videos is a good way to get the students engaged, but I don't do it very often. I also pre-screen the videos I show so I know exactly what content is in it, what level audience the video was intended for, when I can pause for a discussion, etc. I would hesitate to bring up a random video that I hadn't seen before because the material might be above my class's head, or the video could be too long or just bad quality. Imagine if a sixth grader said the word "bridge" and you came up with this video (because it was most recently published from a pretty popular channel). I find this video quite fascinating and very interesting, but I don't know if I would use this for a class since it is packed with so many advanced topics.

On a side note, the random word of 'cake' immediately made me think of these videos from Numberphile: video 1, video 2, video 3. But again, only because I had seen them before, I know which of the videos I would use for which of my classes and what points I would stop to talk to about further and which parts (if any) I would skip.

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    $\begingroup$ Also: Yesterday I was thinking about using a clip from the Silicon Valley TV show in my computing class (noted by a friend), then on review realized it's strewn with f-bombs and sexual references. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 7, 2022 at 19:16
  • $\begingroup$ "the random word of 'cake' immediately made me think of these videos from Numberphile": Precisely why I thought of this example. If the student were to say the f bomb I would definitely turn them down (and that's the least i can do) $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 8, 2022 at 0:25
  • $\begingroup$ @DanielR.Collins I'm interested, in the context of mathematics, why "f-bombs and sexual references" should be a problem. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 9, 2022 at 11:06
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    $\begingroup$ @Prime Mover - because, at least in the United States, using videos with f-bombs and sexual references with students under the age of 18 (and likely even college aged) will almost certainly get one terminated from the job immediately. $\endgroup$
    – Michael G
    Commented Jun 12, 2022 at 3:32
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    $\begingroup$ @MichaelG How bizarre! $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 12, 2022 at 7:55

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