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Podcast Break for Math Minds

Kids who talk about math do better at it. A recent Education Week article noted, “Research suggests that when students talk more about their math thinking, they are more motivated to learn, and they learn more.”  In these nine podcasts, kids talk about math concepts -- hosts introduce great mathematicians, mathematicians talk about math, and there’s a fair dose of silly, playful math talk. There is A LOT to talk about when talking about math. [This playlist was shared by School Library Journal.]

The Science Sisters: Apples & Math
ages 5-8, 9 minutes
Kids love to listen to kids, so what better way to introduce young kids to Sir Isaac Newton than by listening to a first and third grader discuss his work? Inspired by the podcast Wow in the World, sisters Genevieve and Emmy started their own podcast. Here, they share facts about the mathematician and scientist, Genevieve and Emmy’s dad, Kyle, help them out a bit as they discuss the laws of motion, gravity, and calculus, but it’s really the discussion between the sisters that makes this episode so engaging. On the lighter side, they clarify that Newton was not the inventor of the figgy cookie! Perhaps they will inspire other listeners to explore science, make connections, and start a podcast too.

But Why?: What Is the Biggest Number?
ages 7-10, 21 minutes
What is the biggest number? Why is seven a lucky number? Why is 5th grade math so hard?! In this episode, host Jane Lindholm interviews mathematician Joseph Mazur to find answers. Listeners learn about fascinating numbers such as googol and googolplex and more intriguing mathematical information. But Why? is an award-winning show produced by Vermont Public Radio, fueled by a broad range of kid questions on a host of interesting topics.

Wow in the World: 1+2=3, Just Ask a Bee
ages 7-10, 26 minutes
In this episode of this fast-paced, wacky science show, hosts Guy Raz and Mindy Thomas explore the Fibonacci sequence. Kids will enjoy the humorous skits the hosts enact to explain the way to calculate the Fibonacci sequence and how you can find these patterns all around us. Raz and Thomas also share how scientists conducted an experiment that showed that bees can actually add and subtract! Wow in the World is an award-winning NPR science and technology show for kids produced by TinkerCast.

Tai Asks Why: Which Is Cooler, Zero or Infinity?
ages 8-12, 19 minutes
Tai Poole, a curious, math-loving 11-year-old, launched his show in order to ask and explore life’s biggest questions. Here, Tai wonders why numbers are so interesting to him, especially zero and infinity. To explore, he pits these two abstract numbers against one another in order to see which one is the coolest! Tai talks with mathematicians Eugenia Cheng and James Grime, who share the history of these numbers and how they’re connected, and explain that these abstract concepts don’t really exist...unless we are talking about chocolate cake.

Girl Tales: Nova's Lab: Meeting Katherine Johnson
ages 8-12, 9 minutes
In this episode, young listeners meet Katherine Johnson, the NASA mathematician who calculated the trajectory around the moon. Actors introduce young listeners to Katherine Johnson through a first-person audio play, so kids hear her discuss her work and how it enabled astronauts to orbit the moon. Students can also do the hands-on activity, described at the end, to experiment with the concept of orbiting. Nova’s Lab! is a series of episodes produced by Girl Tales, a podcast dedicated to exploring women inventors and scientists.

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls: Ada Lovelace
ages 8-12, 15 minutes
In this episode of the podcast based on the popular book series, listeners learn about the English mathematician and writer Ada Lovelace. Ada saw poetry in numbers, which influenced her love of machines. When she was young, she drew birds in order to try building her own flying machine. As a young adult, she met many scientists, including mathematician Charles Babbage. They shared an interest in math and became life-long friends, working together to write the first computer programming language in history. This episode is read by New York Times correspondent Jodi Kantor. 

Mic Drop Maths: Dear Decimal
ages 9-12, 36 minutes
What sort of personality would a decimal point have? In this episode of Mic Drop Maths, a new podcast created by math teachers and hosted by their fifth grade students in Montpellier, VA, a decimal shares her story! Decimal describes the trials and tribulations of what it’s like to separate the whole numbers from the parts, and you can hear the bitterness in her voice when she reminds listeners that she is not a period, but a decimal. The interview goes on to reveal the origins of the word decimal, it’s function, and how it’s all about location, location, location, in other words, the base 10 system. By using personification, storytelling, student “math talk,” math history, and math quizzes, educator Whitney Wells-Corfield and her students bring math to life—and also offer free worksheets at micdropmaths.com.

Radiolab for Kids: For the Love of Numbers
ages 9-14, 20 minutes
Well-known Radiolab hosts Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich recently launched a show just for kids, aptly named Radiolab for Kids. The show sounds very much like the grown-up one, except for the topics. Here, they explore our deep, emotional connection to numbers and math with the question, “What is your favorite number?” The answers reveal a great deal about us as individuals. The episode will spark discussion about the numbers and math that are part of everyday life, including a consideration of why KFC chicken has 11 herbs and spices as opposed to 10!

TED Radio Hour: Don't Fear Math
ages 14-17, 54 minutes
This podcast shares excerpts from popular TED Talks on different topics. Here, host Guy Raz explores the question, “What is the danger to society if people don’t have math literacy?” Various answers are suggested, including one from Felicia Jones, who reminds us that all girls are good at math. In his response, Dan Finkel talks about how math is really made up of questions, not just problems to solve; he encourages students to play with math. Eddie Woo, a high school math teacher in Australia, describes the elegance of math, while Masha Gershman, from the Russian School of Math, explains how math is thought of differently in Russia. 

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