Street-Fighting Math MOOC Is Open

Screen Shot 2014-04-08 at 11.26.07 AMMy mathematically inclined readers are cordially invited to enroll in “6.SFMx: Street-Fighting Math,” which starts today on EdX. Like most (all?) MOOC courses, it is free and open to world, as are all the course materials.

So far, I have learned that teaching an entirely online course requires far more effort than teaching in person. Maybe by a factor of 10. Partly, it is the difference between talking to a friend on the phone—you just pick up the phone and start talking—compared to writing a long letter that needs to be thought out. To this difference you add that 10,000 others will also read and depend on the letter. You get nervous about making all the pieces right. They never will be, so you never rest easy.

Teaching online forces you to make your tacit knowledge explicit. Tacit knowledge is hard to share, so this process of explication is difficult. Imagine writing down how to tie a shoelace for someone who will learn how only from your written directions. If you try it, you may wonder how you ever managed to tie a shoelace. But I hope that the extra effort helps students learn much more than they would in person, and results in a permanent repository of teaching material for others to reuse.


Professor Mahajan, I have completed 39 MOOCs so far and your Street-Fighting Math class remains without a doubt the best class I have ever taken, a fact that I share with students on many MOOC forums. Your concern that your students should understand the topics covered was evident in your forum messages and now I get a glimpse that it was not as easy as it looked. Thank you for sharing your knowledge so generously with us!