Derivative Dance, Gangnam Style

Bursting onto the scene during my 3rd period AP Calculus class today, my inner choreographer connected aspects of differentiation in a unique and memorable way.  An encore presentation followed during 4th period.  Students seemed to enjoy my moves.  More importantly, they left class with a high-level understanding of how the graph of a function and the graphs of its derivatives relate to one other.

To what do I owe this burst of inspiration?  In a phrase, “Oppan Gangnam style.”

While two weeks ago I could not tell you what that phrase meant, I now not only know, but thanks to our school’s dance team director, an ed school classmate of mine, I can dance like PSY.  Yesterday, during our homecoming week rally, the dance team, a few dozen more students, and twenty or so teachers, including yours truly, danced to Gangnam Style.  Several students and the principal complimented me on showing my moves on the gym floor.  Thankfully, the dance took all of two minutes and is now history.  Setting the stage for today, the moves from yesterday unleashed the creative side of a near fifty-year old enabling my calculus choreography to emerge.

I doubt I will find several dozen students to do my derivative dance at the next rally, even though I bet a few of my students are game.  However, it’s a nice discussion topic for the next AP professional development session.

The following images illustrate Mr. Math Teacher’s “Derivative Dance.”  Using an online animation tool, I have code I can embed at some point that brings to life the following shots.  Until then, while gazing at the stick figures and listening to PSY get his Gangnam groove on, imagine a calculus teacher using these moves to show his students how derivatives of functions relate to one another.

This is not your grandfather’s calculus course.



About Dave aka Mr. Math Teacher

Independent consultant and junior college adjunct instructor. Former secondary math teacher who taught math intervention, algebra 1, geometry, accelerated algebra 2, precalculus, honors precalculus, AP Calculus AB, and AP Statistics. Prior to teaching, I spent 25 years in high tech in engineering, marketing, sales and business development roles in the satellite communications, GPS, semiconductor, and wireless industries. I am awed by the potential in our nation's youth and I hope to instill in them the passion to improve our world at local, state, national, and global levels.
This entry was posted in Pedagogy and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Derivative Dance, Gangnam Style

  1. Perhaps next time you plan to relate graphs of a function, its derivative and (indefinite) integral you could use this Java applet


  2. JL says:

    You might be interested in Calculus: The Musical found here:


  3. Pingback: Derivative dance makes math crystal clear

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s