Doodling in Math Class: Sir Isaac Newton

Math is boring. We hear that every day. But there are exceptions. Consider Sir Isaac Newton. He matriculated at Trinity College at the University of Cambridge in 1661, became a Fellow in 1667, and created the “Newtonian” branch of physics. But many may not be aware that he was a master doodler while sitting in math class.

A number of years ago, I visited the University of Cambridge library, and happened across an extraordinary display. It contained class notes of Sir Isaac Newton, taken while he was an undergraduate student. The notes were taken in meticulous handwriting, with doodling along the borders of the pages. These doodles were of mythical animals and creatures (what buried mathematical concepts lie therein?)

I was reminded of this today, when I read in The New York Times of the YouTube postings of Vi Hart’s “doodling in math class.” I am not suggesting that she is today’s Sir Isaac Newton. I do believe that she has touched upon a very important approach to teaching mathematics – connect with the students in a way that captures their imaginations. I do believe Sir Isaac Newton would approve!


  1. #1 becca
    January 17, 2011

    I absolutely love this!

  2. #2 Coti
    January 18, 2011

    Wow, this was brilliant. I learned about series a year ago and this video made sense of everything I learned. Well done!

  3. #3 rk
    January 18, 2011


  4. #4 Scott V
    January 18, 2011

    Stumble does it again.

  5. #5 Cpt. Obvious
    January 18, 2011

    Ugh, lined paper… otherwise cool video.

  6. #6 Traduceri legalizate
    January 18, 2011

    I know math is exciting but I wish you’d sloooooowwwwww dowwwwwnnnnn. The speed of your presentation makes for great effect, but you’re missing an opportunity to reach people. My kids would LOVE this if you weren’t talking like someone on meth. Maybe you could make two versions – one for dummies like us.

  7. #7 Ben
    January 18, 2011

    love the little prince reference (sheep in the box) ;D

  8. #8 Jeff
    January 18, 2011

    Absolutely! Joy should never be rushed.

  9. #9 Pat Garrett
    January 18, 2011

    She sounds really cute.

  10. #10 Kevin
    January 18, 2011

    Is it wrong that Im turned on by this chick???

  11. #11 luek
    January 18, 2011

    dinosaur comics joke anyone? im a TINY bit pleased!

  12. #12 Double Glazing
    January 18, 2011

    There are math levels that i love and there are some which are really hard.Math is an exciting subject at school and it’s actually used everyday.We may not notice it do like on simple budgetting,math comes in.

  13. #13 Joe
    January 19, 2011

    Kevin is that you?

  14. #14 Nick
    January 19, 2011

    I love you…

  15. #15 Grant
    January 19, 2011

    That was cool. I’ll be drawing so many shapes to infinity, thanks.

  16. #16 sfscribbler
    January 19, 2011

    If only my Math class was THIS fun . . .

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