Archive for October 19th, 2007

My favourite pedagogical principle: examples first!

October 19, 2007

This post is about a very simple idea that can dramatically improve the readability of just about anything, though I shall restrict my discussion to the question of how to write clearly about mathematics. The idea is more or less there in the title: present examples before you discuss general concepts. Before I go any further, I want to make very clear what the point is here. It is not the extremely obvious point that it is good to illustrate what you are saying with examples. Rather, it is to do with where those examples should appear in the exposition. So the emphasis is on the word “first” rather than on the word “examples”.

If this too seems pretty obvious, I invite you to consider how common it is to do the opposite. (more…)