Listen Up! 8 Fascinating Podcasts to Spark a Love of Math in your Teen

MATHS INSIDERS bloggs (11)

I’ve calculated that I spend around 14 hours a week in my car, with school runs, and shipping my kids to after school activities. During these trips, we spend a lot of time chatting (If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live?) and also a little time  staring at the traffic out of the window as well as a lot of time bickering.

One of my favorite in-car activities when I’m on my own in the car is listening to podcasts. I’ve even spent a few dollars and bought the amazing Downcast app so I can easily search, arrange, queue, and play my favorite podcasts. It’s way better than the built in podcast app on my iPhone and is well worth the $1.99.

As well as the Freakonomics podcast which almost always gets played as soon as it’s released and is popular with my teen and preteen as well, we also love the How to Do Everything podcast. I’ve only been listening intensively to podcasts for the past few months and as with any new hobby, I can’t help thinking, “Everyone should be doing this!”

Listening to podcasts is a great way of taking in new information and taking a fresh look at old information for anyone with a busy lifestyle, like parents and teens. So whether you’re a fellow podcast fan or have yet to discover this cool way of filling in dead time; here’s a list of 8 fascinating podcasts to help spark a love of math in your teen:


Photo courtesy of Olly Hart

Freakonomics Radio

In their books “Freakonomics” and “SuperFreakonomics,” Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner explore “the hidden side of everything,” with stories about cheating schoolteachers, self-dealing real-estate agents, and crack-selling mama’s boys. The Freakonomics Radio podcast, hosted by Dubner, carries on that tradition with weekly episodes. Prepare to be enlightened, engaged, perhaps enraged, and definitely surprised.

This is my favorite podcast of all. The mix of statistics and economics and psychology brought to life by the 2 Steve’s makes this a must listen-to podcast series. Episodes range from just a few minutes long to up to an hour, but the professional editing and storytellinh=g makes those minutes whizz through in a flash.

Maths Insider pick: Women Are Not Men

Equality of the sexes has long been a goal, and in many ways that goal is being met. But, as you’ll hear on this program, the variance between men and women on some dimensions is still large. … We’re not trying to start any arguments. We’re just trying to look at the data that show differences between men and women to figure out why those differences exist, and how meaningful they are.

Math Dude Quick and Dirty Tips

The Math Dude’s Quick and Dirty Tips to Make Math Easier seeks to undo those years of classroom pain and suffering. Find tips and tricks to make math fun—and useful—again.

Part of the Quick and Dirty Tips team which includes my other favorites, The Get Fit Guy and The Mighty Mommy, The Math Dude unravels the mysteries of math in these short podcasts. (each episode is usually less than 10 minutes long)As a teacher and mathematician Jason Marshall holds the listener’s hand as he cuts through the math jargon.

Maths Insider pick: How to Use Percentages to Easily Calculate Tips

Learn the power of ten percent to easily calculate the tip next time you visit your favorite restaurant.


More or Less: Behind the Stats

Tim Harford investigates numbers in the news. Numbers are used in every area of public debate. But are they always reliable? Tim and the More or Less team try to make sense of the statistics which surround us.

More or Less is another podcast which I love listening to with my 13 and 12 year olds. It’s made by the BBC which as an expat Brit reminds me of home. Highlighting the way in which math and statistics can be used and misused, each episode will leave you with a great talking point as to why the statistics you’ve heard recently in the news may not be all they seem.

Maths Insider pick: Are there more black men in college or prison in the US?

Only last week Ivory Toldson heard the speaker say there are more black men in prison in America than in college. ‘Here we go again’ he thought. Only the week before he had written his second article on why this statistic is not true. This week Ruth Alexander looks at where this ‘fact’ came from and why it is still being used.

Math Mutation

Welcome to Math Mutation, a podcast where we discuss fun, interesting, or just plain wierd corners of mathematics that you would not have heard in school.

I only came across this podcast while rearching this post, but it’s such a nice little podcast that I’ve added it to my Downcast podcast list. An independent podcast presented by engineer and teacher, Erik Seligman, these 5 minute podcast episodes are a mix and myth-busting and math, with some jokes thrown in.

Maths Insider pick: Perfect Maps

The various complications in creating 1 to 1 scale maps.

perfect maps podcast episode

Travels in a Mathematical World

Travels in a Mathematical World is a mathematics (or maths or math, if you like) podcast by Peter Rowlett, Institute of Mathematics and its Applications, featuring mathematicians talking about their work as well as features on maths history and maths news.

Peter Rowlett has taken a break from making these podcasts for the time being, but there’s plenty of cool episodes in the back catalogue to entertain anyone with even a small amount of interest in mathematics. I really like the short interviews with real-life mathematicians explaining how they use math in their careers.

Maths Insider pick: Interview with Sarah Norton – Systems Engineer

Sarah Norton talks about her work in systems engineering and a specific application for fire engines responding to mobile phone emergency calls.

Inspired by Math!

As the blogger at Wild About Math! Sol Lederman interviews people who are inspired by math and are inspiring others.

When I first started Maths Insider nearly 3 years ago, Sol Lederman was kind enough to publish my guest post (Sneaking Math Into Children’s Diets) on his wildly popular Wild About Math! blog. Sol interviews a variety of folks who in one way or another are helping to dispel the idea that math is a difficult and boring subject.

Maths Insider pick: Leila Schneps & Coralie Colmez

An interview with the mother-daughter team who authored “Math on Trial: How Numbers Get Used and Abused in the Courtroom.”  Talking about inspiration for writing the book, flaws in mathematical thinking, how justice is derailed by bad math in the courtroom, a number of examples of cases from the book, and more.

Pop-Up Economics

Economist Tim Harford weaves together economic ideas with some remarkable personal histories, telling short stories about fascinating people in front of a live audience in some unusual locations.

Another cool BBC podcast, this time linking math, economics and really interesting storytelling. These 10 minute episodes are great for teens and adults alike as the relate how individuals have made use of math to achieve some fascinating results.

Maths Insider pick: The day the geeks took over poker 

The story of Chris Ferguson who applied game theory to poker and won. Big time. But, as Ferguson would find out, there’s always a bigger game.

A Brief History of Maths

Professor Marcus du Sautoy argues that mathematics is the driving force behind modern science. Ten fifteen minute podcasts that reveal the personalities behind the calculations from Newton to the present day. How do these masters of abstraction find a role in the real world?

These stand alone episodes  take a peak inside the lives of some of the most notable mathematicians through history. Sit back and listen to Professor Marcus du Sautoy and his guests tell the stories behind these famous mathematicians including how they started on their path to math greatness and how they overcame the obstacles they faced.

Maths Insider pick: Evariste Galois

Professor Marcus du Sautoy on his favourite mathematician, an angry, young genius who did his best maths in prison and died in a duel, aged 20.

Do you listen to podcasts? Have you listened to any math related podcasts recently? Which are your favorites?


Caroline Mukisa
About The Author: Caroline Mukisa is the founder of Maths Insider. A Cambridge University educated math teacher, she's been involved in math education for over 20 years as a teacher, tutor, Kumon instructor, Tabtor instructor and math ed blogger. She is the author of the insanely helpful ebook "The Ultimate Kumon Review" and insanely useful website "31 Days to Faster Times Tables" You can follow her math tips on Facebook and follow her on Twitter @mathsinsider

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