The Math Man

I discovered Duane Habecker’s YouTube channel quite some time ago. I was intrigued because he was teaching math in an understandable manner. Math was my least favourite subject throughout my school years, but watching and working through his videos is on my personal “Seniors Life List” of things I wish to accomplish.

Math Educator and YouTuber, Duane Habecker, talks about math and math education

Q: Can you tell our readers where you are from?

DH: While I was born in Flagstaff, Arizona, I’ve spent almost my entire life in the San Francisco Bay Area. I currently live and work in Pleasanton, California which is about 40 miles east of San Francisco. I’m not a native Californian, but pretty darn close!

Q: How long have you been a math educator?

DH: I have been a math teacher since 1989. I have taught at the middle school, high school and college levels. The middle school is my favorite and have taught at that level for over 20 years. Technically, I’m still a math teacher, but for the last four years I have been a Mathematics Instructional Coach. This means I travel amongst the schools in my district helping teaching learn how to teach mathematics more effectively.

Q: Why does math inspire you?

DH: I love mathematics because it is far more creative than most people give it credit to be. Math is actually far more in common with poetry than it does with accounting! Really! For example, make a list of all the 3-digit numbers whose digits have a sum of 7. 142 would be in that list. So would 412 and 313 and many others. How many 3-digit numbers would be in that list? What do you notice when you sort those numbers from least to greatest? This simple, little problem ends up being fun to solve. And it requires some creativity in how to systematically search for the 3-digit numbers and then sort them. Beautiful! I became a math teacher because I wanted others to see math as a beautiful and creative endeavor rather than as a dry subject dominated by following meaningless rules.

Q: How did your YouTube channel come about?

DH: I originally started making math videos for my students in the early 2000s, maybe 2002 or so. The videos were stored on my computer in the back of the room. Students who needed additional help could go to the computer any time they wanted, find the right video, and watch it as many times as needed. They didn’t need to wait for me to be available to get the help they needed. Around 2005, I posted all those videos on Google Video, which at the time was a competitor of YouTube. Later, when Google bought YouTube, I created my YouTube channel. By then I uploaded about 150 videos or so of mostly middle school math topics: fractions, decimals, negative numbers, percents, etc. By uploading my videos onto the Internet, I’m subtly teaching my students that they don’t always need a teacher in order to learn things. More often than not, whatever the student wants to learn can be found in a video on YouTube. My hope is that students learn how to be independent learners and don’t have to rely only on school or teachers in order to learn.

Q: Many of your topics on YouTube involve grade school math, but are the videos also useful for adults or even seniors looking for a “refresher”?

DH: Math is universal. It can be learned by anyone of any age. Any adult who finds himself/herself needing to learn math can definitely use my videos as a refresher. Khan Academy is another great resource.

Q: Is there anything else you would like to tell our readers?

DH: About 800 or so of my videos were created very specifically to align with EngageNY (aka Eureka Math). This is a hugely innovative math curriculum that aligns to the Common Core standards. If anyone is homeschooling, they should seriously consider using EngageNY as the math curriculum. My YouTube channel gets about a half million views per month. //

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