Visual Variety for Math - Primes

Visual Variety Project

Using Digital Video to Help Students with Challenging Topics

What We Made

Some topics are more challenging than others for our students. Is that just the way it is, or can we creatively address this issue?

A pair of middle school math teachers and I took time in the spring of 2007 to identify topics that their students found particularly challenging. We chose one - identifying prime numbers - and made a trio of videos to see if bringing some variety to how the topic is presented might help students better understand the topic.

Below are links to the three videos. The first is a rather traditional explanation of what prime numbers are. The second is a graphic exploration of primes using the Sieve of Eratosthenes. The third is a music and stop action piece designed to appeal to those with a more visual orientation to learning.

Prime Numbers - Explained

Prime Numbers - Sieve of Eratosthenes

Prime Numbers - Stop Action with Music

These links will take you to pages with a flash stream. Please use your browser's BACK button to return to this page. If you have difficulty with the streaming, you may use the links at the bottom of this page to watch or download .wmv versions of each one.

How We Evaluated Their Worth

We showed these videos to students in their math classes without any extra instruction on the topic. Before showing the pieces, we gave the students a pre-test like the one below.

After taking the pre-test, students watched the videos, and then took an immediate post-test. A week later, again without extra instruction, students took a similarly formatted follow-up test. Of the 192 students for which we had valid data from both days, 51% showed improvement of at least 10% between the pre-test and the follow-up test the next week, and 34% showed improvement of at least 20% over the same period. Additionally, 83% of the students said that the videos were "somewhat helpful" (45%) or "very helpful" (38%) in their understanding of prime numbers.

How You Can Take Part

We believe that using inexpensive or free video editing tools, teachers and students can create simple pieces that can help others more easily learn challenging concepts. If you wish to try replicating our project, please contact me. If you are interested in trying this project with a different topic (math or another subject), I would be happy to help with that as well. I can be reached via e-mail at

Downloading the Prime Numbers Videos

Clicking on a link below will launch your Windows Media Player to play the video. You may right-click (CTRL-click on a Mac) and choose "Save Target As" (the exact words vary by browser) to download the videos to your computer.




Last Updated 9/30/2007