If I Were A Good Teacher …

… I probably wouldn’t have interrupted our review period with The Mathematics of Hangings, during which interruption we discussed the botched execution of Saddam Hussein’s half-brother, why a too-short rope is definitely not good, why a too-long rope is only a little more preferable, and why all Iraqi hangmen really oughtta hit a refresher course on how to read a table.

… I probably wouldn’t have initiated a heads-up game of Liar’s Dice
with my most probability-minded student during a work period.
Okay, maybe a good teacher would’ve done that one, but he definitely wouldn’t have wagered a perfect portfolio grade against a longer assignment. I mean, what kind of odds are those?

I'm Dan and this is my blog. I'm a former high school math teacher and current head of teaching at Desmos. He / him. More here.


  1. It’s probably not great if I quickly zoomed in on the height that I myself would have to drop…. (5 ft. 8 in.)? Drats. Not sure if I’ll use this one for my 6th grade class…. (maybe we could convert feet and inches into meters?).

  2. Yeah, yeah, unit conversion, that’s a good one. I feel like there’s a decent linear exploration in here too, though I’m not sure why the dy is 2, 3, and 4 inches, all at arbitrary times.

  3. Discussing the use of any rope in circumstances such as those, rather than the drawbacks of too long or too short one, may not have been quite mathematically engaging discussion, but are we supposed to teach mathematics solely or are there other topics in which we might engage in hopes of raising a responsible generation?

  4. I assume the question isn’t rhetorical. Sure. I’m suddenly self-conscious I may have come across as narrowmindedly focused on standards. My favorite class moments usually come in small increments, scattered throughout the day. The Math of Hangings took up only five min. and, as far as off-standards diversions go, was time well-spent.