‘Maths is cool,’ says Vi Hart, ‘but it’s taught all wrong’                

Wired, October 2012

Anyone logging on to Vi Hart’s blog of quirky maths-related videos must feel they are far away from long, dull afternoons of trigonometry. “Maths is just cool,” says the 24-year-old “mathemusician”, a San Francisco Bay Area-resident who now works full-time for Khan Academy, the California-based online video-lecture resource. “But it’s taught all wrong. What most people think maths is, is not what mathematicians think it is: algebra, arithmetic, multiplying things. I want to show people that maths is full of life.”

Trained as a musician — she has a degree in music and has never taken a college maths course — Hart became fascinated by maths when she went to a mathematicians’ conference with her father when she was 13. “Straight away,” she says, “I wanted to speak and present papers at these conferences. At my first one I played a piece of music in which all the notes had been turned into binary numbers:0 for a pause, 1 for sound. It felt like it contained a hidden code.”

She started posting videos of “mathematical doodles” on YouTube in 2009 — her channel now has 170,000 subscribers. Subjects include extraordinary uses of spirals, her own custom “angel-a-trons” and a critique of SpongeBob SquarePants’ underwater pineapple home. She has also embarked on a series of speaking engagements designed to bring maths to life. “I would usually work out what I was going to say on the way there,” she says, “so that I didn’t get bored.”