“Find, find the value of pi — starts 3 point 1 4 1 5 9.
A good ol’ fraction you may hope to define, but the decimal never dies ….”
— from Larry Lesser’s “American Pi”, winner of the National Museum of Mathematics’ Pi Day of the Century song contest
photo © 1999 Lauren Davis
Lesser during his keynote for a district-wide in-service for Cherry Creek School District’s K-12 teachers in Denver.
|ABOUT THE MATHEMUSICIAN: To support his mission to motivate learning, Professor Lesser integrates two great loves – math and music! As the Mathemusician (some say “the Weird Al Yankovic of math ed”), Lesser incorporates song and guitar in interactive classes and keynotes, facilitating explorations and performing songs spanning content such as infinity, pi, and worldly contexts such as the lottery!
Lesser has won a score of awards for educational STEM songs and song videos in recent national contests (NSF, ASA, National Museum of Mathematics, CAUSE, QL-SIGMAA) and has given presentation-performances for national audiences ranging from mathematics teachers (e.g., an SRO audience of 800+ to open the 2009 NCTM conference in Nashville) to mathematicians (e.g., 2008 MAA MathFest banquet or the 2014 Bridges meeting) to statisticians (e.g., 2013 USCOTS banquet) to general audiences (e.g., 2015 MoMath event and 2018 NSF video showcase).
His songs yielded significant learning gains in an NSF-funded randomized experiment and helped land an award-winning followup NSF grant to write and assess interactive statistics songs (see our JSE paper). Lesser’s work has been featured in print media (e.g., Australia’s largest paper), institutional media (e.g., college newsletter or the closing story of university newscast), STEM songwriter media, and mass media (from El Paso to Jamaica!). While he focuses on secondary and postsecondary levels, Lesser has also produced math-and-music material for younger audiences, ranging from an appearing on a regional PBS-TV children’s show to writing an issue of the syndicated feature The Mini Page.
Lesser has published about 100 math/stat lyrics (and about 50 math/stat poems) and pioneering papers (e.g., in J. of Statistics Education, Mathematics Teacher, Teaching Statistics, EJSME, J. of Mathematics Education, J. of Mathematics and the Arts, VOICES, and eCOTS) on using music in math/statistics class, as part of broader collaborative work on educational fun.