I came across this blatant copyright infringement on YouTube this morning, an episode from the 90’s of The Nature of Things, an educational Canadian TV series, this one about the late Martin Gardner. (I don’t know why the video title says John Conway. While Conway’s in it, the show is about Gardner.)
Though I can’t claim to have a great stock of Gardner’s books, the ones I read had a great influence on me when I guess I was around 10 to 12 years old. He makes mathematics fun and fascinating in a way that no teacher who wants to give you a grade ever can. Whereas a teacher may say, “Learn these rules because the board of education has deemed them necessary,” Gardner’s approach is more exploratory, playful, and welcoming, as if to say, “Here’s an idea that’s interesting and peculiar, let’s see what we can do with it.” (If you’re a teacher and want to make any subject more fun, stop grading students for starters. Oh, you can’t do that? Then your methods will always fail, because your philosophy of education is wrong.)
With Gardner’s approach, it’s easy to see how mathematics naturally blends with so many other subjects, such as science, art, magic, and games. While this episode only touches the surface of many of the ideas Gardner helped popularize, it’s still a fun refresher.