Math Podcasts

Below is a (not complete) list of podcasts and radio shows with downloadables that I have heard over the years that have some connection to math. They are not really in any order except organized by common place of origin. If you have any that you have heard that I have missed, please contact me at davidpetro314@gmail.com.

More or Less

Tim Harford explains - and sometimes debunks - the numbers and statistics used in political debate, the news and everyday life. There is usually something on each episode that relates to math class, especially statistics (they are UK centric, however). I have highlighted a few particularly good ones for math class.
  • [New - Added Jun. 15th, 2018] - I liked this episode because there were some examples of problems with rating scales, the math of estimating how many wizards are in England in the Harry Potter books and picking apart the numbers in a study about the safety of home births. All of these, I thought, were really good at talking about how to analyze statistics critically.   https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p068w7c8
  • [New - Added Jun. 15th, 2018] - Do you use "math" or "maths" it seems there is evidence why either can be acceptable. This segment starts at 17:43 and the jury may still be out, even after this.  https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p066x9fh
  • I think when you are teaching statistics it is good to give students some strategies to help tell if a statistic is valid. On this episode, they do it on the back of a postcard. That is, there are five main points and they fit on the back of a postcard. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p05yfqph
  • If you are dealing with metric prefixes or imperial metric conversions then this episode might be useful. It starts with the story of losing a Mars probe due to mixing up imperial and metric measurements and then ends with discussion of some of the larger metric prefixes. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p05jgh5y
  • In this episode they look at the possible reason that albums are getting longer. The short answer is - more tracks means more potential clicks and higher chart placing. There is some interesting info about Spotify. I'm thinking you could have some conversations about rate using the information here about things like how many clicks is equated to one "purchase" - 1500 plays equates to one record sale.  http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p05mpr59
  • The idea of a 100 or 500 year storm often is misleading to humans. In this episode they look at what that probability actually means.  http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p05f4qp9
  • The Story of Average - Everything has to start somewhere. And even things that are so common have a beginning. In this case it's the story of where the idea of "average" came from. You can listen to this 10 min story on the origins of average by the BBC radio Show More or Less and wow your students with anecdotal info about mathematics. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p03qprk7
  • The Math(s) of Spies and Terrorists - a really nice example of how 99% success rate in terrorist detection would result in a large amount of false positives in a country like th US with 300 million people. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01snyk3
  • Testing Public Opinion - Do you need to give real examples of how the way you ask questions on a survey can become biased by using Leading Questions then listen to this More or Less episode on how a poorly conducted survey in India likely gave unreliable results. This clip from the Yes Prime Minister that shows how by using leading questions you can get opposite results for the same question. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p04jz6sr
  • Using order of operations. Listen to the More or Less podcast (starting at about the 11min mark) to hear the story behind the story and watch these two videos to see examples from the gameshow https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pfa3MHLLSWI & https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n8-mx3RSvOQ

RadioLab

This is a well produced show that is mostly about Science (though lately it can be just about anything) and sometimes math shows up. They do a great job of storytelling

Simon Singh's Numbers

Originally this was a five part series (Pi, Phi, i, 0 and infinity) and then it was expanded to a 10 then a 15 part series. It's more than a decade old but each short episode is about 12-15 minutes long and is well produced with many great facts about all kinds of math.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00cl73s

Whats the Point

This podcast was created by 538. That is Nate Silver's site about sports and politics (and entertainment) statistical analysis. On this show they do a great job of breaking apart stats and having experts explain what they mean. Most shows are good (though they are more like interview shows). but the ones below, I think, could be particularly useful when teaching stats. Although this Podcast is not in production anymore, you can still browse their archives.

The Sum of All Parts

[New Added Oct 11th, 2018] This relatively new podcast has episodes that focus on numbers. Though some are more general, with stories around a particular number, there are also some that related directly to mathematics. Like this one on the first chord in The Beatles' A Hard Days Night (which would be good for any courses dealing with composition of functions), this one on rock & roll frontman who turn himself into a mathematician, this one on why the US may be resistant to switching to the metric system, or this one on the idea of indefinite hyperbolic numerals like 'zillion', 'squillion' and 'kajillion'. Season two http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/sum-of-all-parts/
should be starting soon.

A Brief History of Mathematics

In this 10 episode BBC series, Professor of Mathematics Marcus du Sautoy reveals the personalities behind the calculations and argues that mathematics is the driving force behind modern science. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00srz5b/episodes/downloads

Planet Money

Planet Money is an NPR segment that has longer form shows on the economics of everything. They are well produced and often have things you can use in your standard math classes.
  • The Indicator - an offshoot podcast from Planet Money is called The Indicator which is a short look at a number in the news. This episode was 1994 which is the year graphing calculators were allowed to be used on the SATs and one of the things the podcast talks about is why the price of the TI-84 has essentially stayed unchanged since it's inception. https://www.npr.org/sections/money/2018/03/12/592962844/hurricane-joseph-the-calculator-that-time-forgot
  • 10 11 51 52 62 18 - When ever I used to teach combinatorics I wouldn't miss talking about lotteries and specifically those like the 6/49 or the Powerball. Invariably we would talk about being able to buy all the possible combinations and what that would take. It was pretty quickly determined that you would need a huge effort or at least some sort of automation (much like Lazlo had if you have ever seen the movie Real Genius). Well, as it turns out, somebody has actually done this. They filled out and played every combination.  http://www.npr.org/sections/money/2016/01/13/462982983/10-11-51-52-62-18
  • The Experiment Experiment - This story from Planet Money is about the fact that many psychological studies are actually not repeatable. When talking about data management we often talk about bias and this episode talks about how bias could be why some of these studies are not repeatable. http://www.npr.org/sections/money/2016/01/15/463237871/episode-677-the-experiment-experiment
  • Why A Pack Of Peanut Butter M&M's Weighs A Tiny Bit Less Than A Regular Pack - I like collecting real data in classes, and so I was thrilled with a reason to do so. That is, the mystery of why there are different weights of regular M&Ms vs Peanut Butter M&Ms per bag. The actual reason is a bit of a mystery. But collecting data about how many M&Ms are in each pack (or how much each pack weighs in reality) is a good way to talk about measures of central tendency, dot plots, and standard deviation. http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2014/06/05/319084976/why-a-pack-of-peanut-butter-m-ms-weighs-a-tiny-bit-less-than-a-regular-pack
  • What's Your Major? - Many have long said that mathematics was the way to a high paying job. Well now I guess we have the data to prove it. The US Census has always asked about income and level of schooling but in their most recent surveys they have also asked what people's majors were. The Planet Money people have a great podcast on the results (long and short versions below). And the survey says: Applied math (engineering, computer science etc) seems top the list. What's at the bottom? Psychology. A couple of things that resonated with me about this were a) that, in general, it didn't matter where you got your degree and b) it really had more to do with supply and demand.  http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2013/09/11/221417806/episode-485-whats-your-major
  • At $17.5 Million A Year, LeBron James Is Underpaid - I am not completely sure how this could be used in a math class but I was fascinated by the connection of math and economics to show that LeBron James is actually severely underpaid at $17M per year. I am pretty sure you could tie this into statistics. http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2013/01/25/170176590/at-17-5-million-a-year-lebron-james-is-underpaid

Freakonomics Radio

Along the same lines as Planet Money, Freakonomics Radio takes the ideas of the book and continually applies them to all sorts of things. Sometimes they get into the math too.
  • "John Urschel of the Baltimore Ravens was the only player in the N.F.L. simultaneously getting a Ph.D. in math at M.I.T. But after a new study came out linking football to brain damage, he abruptly retired" - this story is probably a nice general interest topic spanning sports to math. http://freakonomics.com/podcast/brain-damage/
  • How Do We Know What Really Works in Healthcare? - In data management it seems reasonable to talk about random controlled trials and why they are so important for research (especially medical research). With that being said, this is about that very thing. Certainly worth a listen, if only to gain insight we can pass on to our students. Personally, it's the kind of thing I would have students listen to and then have the discussion afterwards. http://freakonomics.com/2015/04/02/how-do-we-know-what-really-works-in-healthcare-a-new-freakonomics-radio-podcast/

Science Friday

Science Friday is a weekly two hour radio show on all things science. That being said, they often have segments that relate to math.

The Math Guy

Keith Devlin is a Stanford Mathematician, but for almost 20 years he's had a side gig talking about mathematics on NPR's Weekend Edition. He does these in no regular interval but you can listen to almost all of the complete archive here:
https://web.stanford.edu/~kdevlin/MathGuy.html




NPR

There are often math related stories that appear elsewhere on NPR. Here are a few

The Story Collider

The Story Collider is a podcast that is about people telling true stories about science (and some math). They are all recorded live at story slams and science festivals and are often quite interesting. Here are a few dealing with math in some way.
  • [New - Added Aug. 26th, 2018] - In part 2 of this episode, Math teacher @MrHonner talks about doubting his lifelong love of math while in grad school. https://www.storycollider.org/stories/2018/7/17/loneliness-stories-about-finding-friends
  • [New - Added Aug. 26th, 2018] - In part 2 of this episode, Math teacher @Stoodle recounts his incredibly stressful first year as a teacher.  https://www.storycollider.org/stories/2018/8/6/help-stories-about
  • A couple of different stories related about math in honour of Pi Day. The first is a story of what inspired a reluctant mathematician Ken Ono (one of the producers of the movie "The Man Who Knew Infinity"). The second is a powerful story of racial and gender discrimination in the math community and elsewhere from @pwr2dppl. And if that is not enough, check out her thesis. It's written in a way that I have never seen a math/science thesis written. This quote from the prologue should pique your interest: "....try to read a math paper and think, “Oh my goodness what on earth does any of this mean why can’t they just say what they mean????”" https://www.storycollider.org/stories/2018/3/5/in-honor-of-pi-day-stories-about-math
  •  Find out about mathematician @lewlefton who is also a stand up comedian (with math jokes) and @TheMathGuru who talks about her first day as a student teacher.   https://www.storycollider.org/stories/2018/1/5/math-problems-stories-about-math 
  • Adriana Salerno: A Different Kind of Problem - In these times of more awareness of mental illness comes a story of one mathematician's battle with depression http://storycollider.org/podcast/2015-09-25
  • Alex Belos: Your Favourite Number - Alex is talking about how his quest to find the world's favourite number started (and how he himself blew off the idea of having a favourite number in the first place). I think that it is important for students to get these parts of mathematics so that they don't just see the drudgery of just doing problem after problem. Things like this bring out the humanity in math. http://storycollider.org/podcast/2015-01-26
  • Ed Frenkel: The Test - Whether it was his book Love and Math, his Numberphile video Why People Hate Math, is LA Times OP Ed or his Science Friday interview and now with his Story Collider essay on math and bigotry and how love of math saved the day, Ed Frenkel has some good things to say. http://storycollider.org/podcast/2014-09-19
  • Erika Engelhaupt: The Science of Speeding - Erika tells of how cognitive bias lead her boyfriend to jail. The story doesn't seem to be related to that at all as you are listening but it comes around at the end. Caution: there is one use of the f-word. http://storycollider.org/podcast/2014-08-22
  • Jen Fitzgerald - Rocky the Mathlete - This one is a story from the perspective of a woman who, as a student, wrote math contests and was a "mathlete". Its kind of like The Karate Kid or Rocky but with math contests. Its kind of funny too (though there is some explicit language). http://storycollider.org/podcast/2012-08-26

CBC



99% Invisible

99% Invisible is a show about architecture and design but often it has tangential topics. It is very well produced and even the episodes about math are quite interesting.

My Favourite Theorem

Hosted by mathematicians @niveknosdunk and @evelynjlamb this relatively new podcast interviews other mathematicians & math teachers and ask what their favourite theorems are. Although some are well above high school levels, some of the discussion does hinge around theorems and mathematics that could be done in high school and elementary classes like the fundamental theorem of Calculus, Archimedes’ theorem that π is a constant, Fermat's Little Theorem, how this mathematician connects Pythagorean Theorem with his Navajo identity, and Varignon’s theorem for quadrilaterals (here is my 2D @desmos graph3D @geogebra graph and this short @desmos activity where students construct it).
https://kpknudson.com/my-favorite-theorem/ For more info you can see a blog post for each podcast at https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/roots-of-unity/

Mr. Barton Maths Podcast

[New - Added Sept. 14th, 2018] - I have found resources at the Mr. Barton Maths website for years and just recently found out that @MrBartonMaths had a podcast. On it he does a lot of long form (an hour plus) interviews with math educators and researchers. Certainly worth the listen check out all the episodes here but here are a couple of my faves (so far) 
  • Sept. 9, 2018 - Simon Singh: Fermat’s Last Theorem and stretching high-attainers - Here @SLSingh talks about his many books including Fermat's Last Theorem and the Simpsons and their Mathematical Secrets. He also mentions some of his initiatives to support high end math in schools. And if you haven't listened to it yet, scroll up closer to the top of this page for info on Simon's great series 5 Numbers, Another 5 Numbers and A Further 5 Numbers.  http://www.mrbartonmaths.com/blog/simon-singh-fermats-last-theorem-and-stretching-high-attainers/
  • May 20, 2018 - Dylan Wiliam – the return! Creating the Schools our Children need - There are a lot of great nuggest that @DylanWiliam talks about in this over 2 hour interview. One of my favourite parts was when he suggested that the most important characteristic of a good teacher was not content knowledge or pedagogy execution but instead the willingness to continue learning and especially to not think that everything you do in the classroom is correct. But there is way more than that here. http://www.mrbartonmaths.com/blog/dylan-wiliam-the-return-creating-the-schools-our-children-need/ 

10-Minute Teacher

The 10-minute teacher podcast is a very practical podcast where teachers of all variety are interviewed and are giving tips of the trade in these small 10 minute nuggets. They are not all about math but I have highlighted some of the math related ones (though some of the others are pretty good too. They put out an episode every weekday (every day with a different theme) and @coolcatteacher does the interviewing. I only found out about it because I was suggested to them by someone as a potential guest. I'm glad I know about it now.

Miscellaneous Podcasts

This American Life: What's in a Number - This American Life is one of the big wigs of well produced radio shows and although there is very little math, this particular episode was all about one number and the good statistical methods that went into creating it. That number was the number of deaths caused by the Iraq War (as it was going on). It's longer but very well produced and, I think, is a must listen to for anyone teaching data management.    https://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/320/whats-in-a-number-%E2%80%94-2006-edition







On this episode of Note to Self they speak to @MonaChalabi who is the data editor for The Guardian who does some very cool stuff both in the publication and on her Instagram feed. She picks interesting data sets and creates interesting visualizations to represent them. Listening to a podcast doesn't do her work justice but listen at the link below and then and then check out her feed.
https://www.wnycstudios.org/story/data-mona-chalabi/


If you ever want to give students an example of the dangers of exponential growth then this story of a hacker who's "worm" inadvertently shut down the most popular site on the Internet (at the time) and did so because it grew exponentially. Listen to his story (starting at 1:19:17 ) on how he shut down MySpace (this was clearly a while ago) and how it eventually got him banned from using computers. @SamyKamkar is a hacker and he is being interviewed by venture capitalist and self experimenter @tferriss. It's a great (and long) podcast but the story in question starts at 1:19:17.  http://fourhourworkweek.com/2015/05/02/samy-kamkar/

Have not heard of the Museum of Math (MoM)? Listen hear to find out why you should go to New York to visit it. http://www.wnyc.org/story/264330-down-and-dirty-at-the-museum-of-math/

Listen to JoBoaler on Math, gender, mindsets and controversy in this radio interview  https://soundcloud.com/inflectionpointradio/jo-boaler-revolutionizing-math-education-at-stanford




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