K—12 math instruction has come a long way from having students memorize times tables. Thanks to innovative instructors like Howie Hua, it’s gone all the way to TikTok. And it’s gone viral.
Meet Howie Hua
Howie Hua is a lecturer at Fresno State. He teaches math to future elementary math teachers. That’s a good thing, because he doesn’t just make math “come alive.” He makes it go viral.
He has more than 32,000 followers on TikTok (@howie_hua), where his brief, punchy math explainer videos have garnered nearly 500,000 likes.
That’s why Bethany Lockhart Johnson was so excited to talk to him on the podcast, she says. “He is inviting us to think about how we ask questions in mathematics in ways that get people buzzing. His ideas and thoughts have gone viral and people are in conversation in a way that we long for them to be, out in the streets shouting about mathematics.”
(Fun fact: Hua can also throw a rifle 15 feet in the air, do a back flip, and catch it. Don’t believe us? Check out his TikTok.)
Questions are as important as answers
“I think people don’t want to watch a 20-minute YouTube video on something math-related. Maybe they just want a short one-minute explainer,” says Hua.
Even in one minute, Hua shines new light on math functions and concepts—and more.
“People want to understand what’s actually happening,” says Hua. “For example, I got so many nice comments when I explained the long division algorithm. I said, ‘Let’s visualize it.’ It’s not just connecting the permutation and the combination formulas. People want to know what’s happening rather than just ‘Use this formula to get an answer.’”
Dan Meyer shares a couple of Hua’s most popular TikToks:
- Test Talk: Reduce test anxiety by having students talk in a group about a test for five minutes before putting pencil to paper.
- How do you calculate … ? In his Mental Math Mondays series, Hua asks viewers to tell him exactly how they solve a given arithmetic problem. “One of my favorite hobbies is to listen to how people think about math,” says Hua. “So if you want to make my day, comment or stitch this video with how you would calculate 17 plus 18 in your head.”
Hua says that to ask “Hey, how would you think about this?” does more than give him insight. Asking questions helps build community, and shows people that there are many ways to arrive at an answer.
Says Hua: “It really goes to show that math is a creative subject. ‘Hey, can we find another way? What’s another way that we can do this?’ I tell my students, the beauty is in us, not the final answer.”
Join the challenge
Here’s Hua’s Math Teacher Lounge challenge for this episode:
- Walk around and find something that you can count, take a picture, and then ask around: “Hey, how would you count these?” See if their way is the same as yours—or if it blows your mind.
- Share your pictures and thoughts by tagging us (@MTLShow) and Howie (@Howie_Hua) on Twitter, and sharing them in the Math Teacher Lounge Facebook group as well.
Bonus: Did you do the daily Wordle before you read this post? You might have learned something about teaching math—listen to the podcast to find out why (and to hear why on earth Dan Meyer would start his guesses with “PYGMY”)
The Math Teacher Lounge podcast is available on all major streaming platforms and on mathteacherlounge.com. Math Teacher Lounge is presented by Amplify and Desmos. Visit Amplify’s website to find out more about Amplify Math.