Homeschooling: Travels With Burger

Both our kids are homeschooling while we’re traveling and it is comforting to know that mathematics is the least of our worries. This is in large part due to Burger. Our kids love Burger. Burger is Professor Edward B. Burger, a mathematics professor and online video math teacher extraordinaire. He’s funny, he’s organized, he’s full of energy and he makes math fun. Recently, while my son was doing his geometry homework, he yelled out, “Check out Burger!” We all lined up behind his laptop to watch Burger declare his preference for, of all things, a math theorem: “Pythagorean Theorem, I've got to tell you, this is my favorite theorem. This is it. If you were wondering: Gee, Professor Burger what is your favorite theorem? You know what. Wonder no more.”

Burger is a professor in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at Williams College and is a pioneer in the multimedia Internet lectures that complement online written material to form electronic textbooks. His lesson tutorial videos earned publisher Holt, Rinehart and Winston a 2007 Award of Excellence from Technology & Learning, an academic publication. Our kids are studying geometry and pre-algebra, respectively, via an online Holt California Mathematics Course and they are loving it.

I don’t want to say he’s a nerd or anything, but Burger’s research interests include algebraic number theory, Diophantine analysis, p-adic analysis, and continued fractions, to name a few. One of his scholarly articles is named "Badly Approximable Systems and Inhomogeneous Approximation Over Number Fields.” Okay, okay…he’s a nerd…but he’s a cool nerd. I mean he’s got a Facebook page. It’s full of gushing teens and pre-teens thanking Burger for his teaching style that makes math fun and interesting. On Burger’s Facebook “wall” one of his fans says “I watched your vids and they are clear and hilarious! (Our) school LOVES YOU. We are always like "PUT ON BURGER!"

Burger is enthusiastic, organized and full of energy. He wears glasses and has large eyes that occasionally have a crazed look as he gets excited about whatever the topic is. He has jet-black hair, prefers long-sleeve shirts in dark colors with the sleeves rolled to the elbow. His lessons are interactive and he’s constantly asking questions of his audience: “Tell me what you think,” or “Isn’t that right?” He recently started a tutorial video with a math problem couched in football terms. Just before he launched into the problem, a football was tossed to him from offstage. He aids his lessons with graphics and animations. My daughter was doing her Pre-Algebra homework a few weeks ago and said, “Look at Burger!” She re-wound the video for us, which started with Burger declaring, “I like gold.” Then, an animated gold crown appeared on his head, followed by a gold necklace, a gold bar and a gold staff. He keeps the kids interested.

Burger has been a big part of our travels and he feels like part of the family now. He does most of the tutorial videos for the kids’ homework, but occasionally someone else stands in for him and the kids are disappointed. A few times, an older woman professor will appear in the video and our kids will groan, “Where’s Burger?”; she’s very good but it’s just not the same without Burger.

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