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## Open Phones: What Would You Teach?

### Wednesday, February 20, 2013

If you could teach a class on anything, what would be the topic? What's your micro-specialty - the thing you know so well that you could share with others? It could be anything - a skill, a concept, the history of whatever - as long as you could teach it to someone who would want to learn it. Call in to 212-433-WNYC, 212-433-9692.

Jonathan Soma, co-founder of the Brooklyn Brainery, talks about what makes a good topic for a class and the Brainery's mission.

#### Guests:

Jonathan Soma

Heather from Denville, NJ

I wish someone would teach a class on the art of building dry-stacked stone walls.

Mar. 11 2013 12:02 PM
Bob Abate from Yonkers, NY

For the past decade I have been a volunteer Math Tutor in the South Bronx and Westchester County, working with several hundred students ranging from 3rd graders through GEDers and adults at a local community college. During that time only a small handful of students fully knew their Multiplication Tables - MTs - a fundamental underpinning for Math success. Most knew their 2x, 5x & 10x tables but beyond that they hit a wall and would immediately whip out their calculators to find the answers!

Most of my students had relatives outside the country. I would ask them to write down all the phones numbers they knew from memory. It was quite common for most to list a half dozen seven or ten-digit numbers. At that point, I would reference the MTs, showing them the following:

The largest number was 144 - just three little digits.
Almost every number in the Tables is repeated, reducing the real variety of numbers in half.
Nearly all the numbers are just two digits.
I would simply appeal to their logic.

Since they had already demonstrated their ability to produce, from memory, multiple seven and ten-digit phone numbers, did it make any sense that they should have ANY trouble with two digits numbers and a few threes? Their response was an enthusiastic "No!"

I demonstrated the benefits of mastering their MTs for the rest of their lives. Once they saw that, they were excited and agreed. I then devised a very simple and highly effective technique to teach them the complete Tables in less than a day.

The only resistance to any of this was from the "educators" - teachers, principals and administrators. They objected to memorization as "drill and kill". They had "no time" for teaching the Tables because it wasn't part of their syllabus, schedule or upcoming test. They wanted their students to "think", not do "drill and kill."

I tried explaining to them that virtually every aspect of our identity and life initially stems from a form of memorization - our name, address, Social Security number, phone number, recipes, traffic rules, social conventions etc ... etc ... etc ... Far from drill and kill, basic applications of memorization helps us live and thrive.

Once they have passed their Algebra, Geometry and Trigonometry exams and or regents, most students will rarely use those subjects in real life. Some will go on to do so in the sciences, engineering and business related areas. However, each and every student can use their mastery of the Multiplication Tables in everyday life, from supermarket shopping to most every other transaction on a daily basis. We often hear the term - "return to the basics" - used over and over but this is one area where I firmly believe Failure Is Not An Option.

Bob Abate
rpa63@bestweb.net

Feb. 20 2013 02:14 PM
Truth & Beauty from Brooklyn

To: Xtina from E. Village

"If that woman wants to teach how to make Urkainian Easter eggs she should learn how to pronounce the word properly first."

And you should learn how to spell it: Ukrainian.

Feb. 20 2013 12:04 PM
Amy from Manhattan

I could teach math shortcuts. My example is quick-&-dirty unit conversions, like converting Celsius to Fahrenheit by subtracting 10, doubling the result, & adding 50 (yes, 10 C = 50 F, exactly) & cm to inches by dividing by 10 & multiplying the result by 4. (Note that these work within somewhat narrow ranges & aren't exact; e.g., 25 C comes out to 80 F with this method instead of the exact 77 F it really equals--less helpful outside of temperate zones, but good enough for most practical purposes.)

Feb. 20 2013 12:01 PM
Xtina from E. Village

If that woman wants to teach how to make Urkainian Easter eggs she should learn how to pronounce the word properly first.

the accent is on the first syllable not the second etc

Feb. 20 2013 11:45 AM
Rollership from The future

I can teach utopian studies, and thinking outside the box. All lessons are free, on rollership.tumblr.com

Feb. 20 2013 11:43 AM
Colleen Cox from Brooklyn, NY

2D (read: drawn) Animation - fun fact: because film runs 24 frames per second, early animators painstakingly drew 24 drawings for every second before, allegedly, Walt Disney's Snow White & the Seven Dwarves production team discovered that you can do only 12 drawings, running each drawing at 2 frames per second, and the human eye cannot really tell the difference - what a time saver!

Feb. 20 2013 11:41 AM
susan from Kinnelon NJ

Mah Jongg Old Chinese tile game. I want to debunk the myth that it is a game for older Jewish women. It is not. It's a great game and extremely social. There is a National Mah Jongg League and I would teach the game according to their rules. It's challenging and addicting. And it's not just for women

Feb. 20 2013 11:40 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Actually, video games make for a perfect theme from which many subjects can be touched upon. For example, the art work in videogames. The geometry and other mathematics used in the algorithms for their graphical display. The story telling used in many games, including history as in "Assassin's Creed." There is a wealth of information that goes into the development of a video game. And since most kids play video games, there would be little problem in sustaining their interest.

Feb. 20 2013 11:40 AM
Sarah from Brooklyn

Special effects for haunted houses. I know about four different fake blood recipes, can create very realistic fake vomit, and know a few special effects to make it look like someone's leg is getting cut off. Let's just say I put myself through theatre school by working in a prop shop.

Feb. 20 2013 11:38 AM
Melissa M. from Brooklyn, NY

I could definitely teach a class about navigating Special Needs school choices in NYC. My son has autism and I have been through it all! The worst part is the "Turning 5" process, where parents must figure out if their special needs child should be going to a public school, a private school, or "private but funded" school. It's a big maze that includes a ton of acronyms, specialists, and a real time line of events.

Feb. 20 2013 11:35 AM
Mary

So many mini-courses I've taught:
Mastering Your Digital Camera (using the various buttons, controls--technical, not compositional)
Effective Internet Searching
Finding Reliable Medical Information on the Internet
Simple Enhancements to Your Digital Photos
Using Styles in MS Word
Quick, Inexpensive, Healthy Meals

Many topics lend themselves to short courses...each person has areas of expertise. I congratulate the Brainery for tapping into this!

Feb. 20 2013 11:32 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

I'd teach them how to play video games with their parents and grandparents. The family that plays together, stays together :)

Feb. 20 2013 11:27 AM

I can teach a Class on "Jail-Breaking" a B&N ND+ Tablet/eReader to run CM10 (Android 4.1). This DOES NOT void Warranty. B/C you are booting off microSD card

Feb. 20 2013 11:23 AM

77%?!?!?!?

WTF!!

Feb. 20 2013 11:11 AM
Truth & Beauty from Brooklyn

I would like to teach a couple of things:

1. An honors level writing seminar in high school. Fewer and fewer people can write well and that needs to change.

2. A relate-what-you-learned-in-class-to-the-real-world seminar. Too many kids walk out of a class and ask when they will ever use what they just learned. They need to know that everything in life is interconnected and that classroom learning is not meant to be an inconvenience; rather it is an introduction to life as we know it.

Feb. 20 2013 10:55 AM
antonio from baySide

Car Czar? This is the 21st century, we need a light-rail/streetcar Czar!

Feb. 20 2013 10:52 AM
Ed from Larchmont

Or perhaps the structure of the American government and separation of powers as seen in the writing of St. Thomas (1200s) and expanded on in the writing of St. Robert Bellarmine (1500s).

Feb. 20 2013 07:55 AM
Ed from Larchmont

Current Shakespeare scholarship is working on the religion of Shakespeare, and there are good reasons to believe he was Catholic, perhaps responding to the killing of Catholics by Queen Elizabeth. That would be an interesting class.

Or teaching a class on G.K. Chesterton would be wonderful, he's a university education in himself, covering all disciplines.

Another topic would be the Catholicism in Western culture. There are so many misconceptions. Also the Bible, most writers in history were writing with a thorough knowledge of the Bible and faith.

Another would be 'Moby Dick' as an exploration of Catholicism as a response to the Catholic immigration into the U.S. in the 1840s, and Melville's understanding of the role of the pope as shown in 'Moby Dick' in the white whale.

Feb. 20 2013 05:56 AM