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(I'm not sure if this counts as on-topic for this StackExchange community. If not, please let me know and I'll delete the question!)

When teaching math in front of a class, I often use a blackboard and chalk. Unfortunately, this means that by the end of the class, my hands are full of chalk dust. I don't want to leave my things in the classroom while I go wash my hands, so I have to pack up my things, which means I get chalk on my notes, my bag, my jacket, etc.

Does anyone have any suggestions on how to use a blackboard while avoiding getting chalk on all my stuff?

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    $\begingroup$ Personally, I use Hagoromo chalk, which has a coating on the outside of the chalk so that my hands get less chalk on them by the end of the class. It's a bit spendy, though! $\endgroup$
    – Opal E
    Nov 1, 2022 at 17:41
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    $\begingroup$ Buy a chalk holder. It costs less than 10 bucks and takes care of hands nicely. Unfortunately, it doesn't solve the feet problem (when I teach, I create a lot of chalk dust on the floor near the blackboard, over which I pace back and forth and which I promptly spread over the department hallway floor afterwards :lol:) $\endgroup$
    – fedja
    Nov 1, 2022 at 18:20

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fedja is right. I always used a chalk holder like this:

chalk holder

If you know an academic who uses chalkboards (rare nowadays, most use PowerPoint), a chalk holder would be a great gift for them.

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    $\begingroup$ Is it practical to have several? I like to use several colors of chalk $\endgroup$
    – Sambo
    Nov 2, 2022 at 12:09
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    $\begingroup$ I'm not sure of its prevalence in other disciplines, but I know almost no college math instructors who primarily use PowerPoint. There's still a lot of whiteboards, chalkboards, and paper/tablet handwriting with a document camera. $\endgroup$
    – Nick C
    Nov 2, 2022 at 13:06
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You can't.

The answers given by David Steinberg and Gerald Edgar are both very good mitigation strategies (I have a rather nice chalk holder which I have used so much that you can see wear patterns on the part which I hold), but there is nothing which you will ever be able to do which keeps your hands completely free of chalk. Chalk dust gets everywhere.

A couple of other mitigation strategies:

  • Wear cheap cotton gloves (e.g. archival gloves) while teaching. Some chalk dust will permeate these and get on your hands (especially if you use your hand to erase), but not all of it. Just make sure that you clean them frequently (e.g. by rinsing them out with water after class).

  • Keep a box of wet wipes or moist towelettes with you while teaching. After class, scrub your hands down with a wet wipe before packing your gear. This can also have the advantage of helping to keep your hands moisturized, as many brands will put some kind of moisturizer into the wet wipe solution (in the past, chalk dust and the arid desert environment in which I live has done quite a bit of damage to my hands).

  • A more eco-friendly version of wet wipes is to just keep a dish towel with you. Teach your class, then wipe your hands with the dry towel at the end before packing up. This will have to be frequently laundered, and you don't want to pack it in with your other stuff (though I suppose you could keep it in, for example, a ZipLoc bag), but it might help.

  • Just wipe your hands on your pants. I know, I know—you don't want chalk all over yourself. But chalk generally washes out pretty easily, and you do laundry regularly, right? There isn't really anything wrong with having big chalk spots on your pants at the end of the day, unless you have something special to do (in which case, why not try the strategies above?).

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You could use the very expensive chalk with the thin wax coating on the sides: Fulltouch by Hagoromo. You will still get a little chalk on your hands, but less, and fulltouch really is the champagne of chalk

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  • $\begingroup$ @Opal I see now that you made this comment already :/ $\endgroup$ Nov 3, 2022 at 17:28

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