Improvisational Math

I started taking improv classes last fall at Highwire Comedy Co.  I recently noticed that "Yes, And" - the most well known and universal principle of improvisational theater - is listed as one of the seven principles of Natural Math (Natural Math is a community for families, math circles, and other learning groups devoted to giving children a chance to observe, play with, and make their own math.)  This has got me thinking about the connections between improv and math.

Natural Math Principles

So here are a bunch of principles of improv which I think relate to learning and doing mathematics. Over time, I'll try to add examples from both math and improv to illustrate them.

1. Listen - When someone is talking, focus on absorbing everything they're saying and don't let yourself get caught up trying to figure out what you're going to say next.

2. Agreement (Yes, And...) - When someone comes up with an idea, go along with it.  Never shut them down.  But do add to it!

3. Team Work (Group Mind) - Focus on supporting each other, and together you'll create something that no one of you could have thought of on your own.

4. Make Active Choices - Do something!

5. Be Prepared, But Don't Rehearse - Instead of repeating the same thing over and over again and getting really good at it, repeat the process of creating something new, and do warmup activities that sharpen the skills you will need and put you in the right mindset.

6. Celebrate Failure - If you take risks, then you'll make mistakes.  But that's a good thing - your team will support you, you'll grow from the experience, and what you thought was a mistake could turn into something great.

7. Focus On The Present - Don't worry about how everything will resolve.  Be confident that you'll figure it out, and don't let that stop you from taking risks.

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