This “pedagogue” strips naked on screen to teach mathematics

Translation of an article in Spanish magazine Nobbot about my unique approach to teaching. Read the original (in Spanish) here.

The teaching of numbers and operations can cause rejection among young people and, perhaps, not so much because of the difficulty of the subject, but because of false stereotypes and boring educational strategies. A young teacher bets on teaching math in his underpants.

Tom Crawford, a professor of freshman and sophomore students at Oxford University, knows a great deal about teaching . He shares his videos with thousands of followers under the name of Tom Rocks Maths . In some of these videos, like the ones in the Equations Stripped series , he eviscerates famous equations of Physics and Mathematics while he takes off layers of clothing, until he stays in shorts.

In an interview with Laura Moreno Iraola, from the outreach team of the Institute of Mathematical Sciences (ICMAT), Crawford explains the reasons that lead him to undress to bring numbers and operations closer to the youngest. ” The idea of ​​a stereotype of the mathematician does not make sense nowadays,” he says, “because it is not representative of a large part of the group. Also, I hope that, showing myself as a public face of Mathematics, I can help those who currently think that they do not fit in this world ”.

Of course, as he himself admits, his image elicits all kinds of opinions, you just have to read the comments on his YouTube channel. This does not make him falter in his vocation to disseminate. “Becoming a communicator and communicator of Mathematics allows me to visit schools in disadvantaged areas and also convey to society that it is not that bone subject that we have been led to believe.”


Where does this popularizing passion come from? As he tells Sinc, he has always wanted to make the university accessible to everyone, “since I was educated in a state school and I had to work hard to enter Oxford”.

The path that led him to choose nudity to teach mathematics on his YouTube channel was, he says, quite logical. “During my PhD, I spent two months working with the Cambridge Naked Scientists team . We did a weekly science program on BBC radio and, as the name suggests, toyed with the idea that we could be naked while broadcasting the program. I enjoyed it so much that I agreed to work with them full time upon finishing my PhD. After a year, I realized that what I really liked was audiovisual, and then I created the character for ” Tom Rocks Maths” and my YouTube channel. ”

In Spain, another mathematician and popularizer, Eduardo Sáenz de Cabezón, explains in Nobbot the importance of bringing mathematics closer to young people by applying new educational strategies. “There are some things where there is a lot of room for improvement. One is to intensify the relationship between the mathematics that occurs in school and the context, people’s lives. There is, on the one hand, the path of utility, Mathematics is very useful for many things. Another way is that of enjoyment. Just as we can enjoy literature, we can enjoy a good mathematical narration, a nice problem ”.

Eduardo, who was presenter of the television program Órbita Laika, is optimistic about the present and future of Mathematics. “There is a general movement in which Mathematics has entered the conversation and there is a lot of employment. We have spent several years in which Mathematics, together with Informatics and Statistics, are the careers with the least unemployment according to the labor force survey. It is probably because when a company looks for a non-specific scientific professional, an engineer was used before, usually from ‘teleco’, and now a mathematician is sought because it has several aspects: studying problems, statistical capacity and data analysis ”.

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