Education Opinion

Prime Numbers

By Jessica Shyu — October 24, 2006 1 min read
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If Special Ed teachers are drama queens as my professor at Western New Mexico University claims, then teaching is the ultimate form of improv.

For example, when a seventh grade student in inclusion math asked me what prime numbers were, I hadn’t prepared a lesson to teach him. How do you really explain prime numbers, other than the fact that it is a number divisible only by 1 and itself? His eyes were glazing over. So I quickly changed course to the best way I understood prime numbers.

“Prime numbers are anti-social.”


“Do you know what anti-social means?”

“Anti-social is how we sometimes describe people who don’t like to hang out with others. Sometimes this is the person who sits away from everyone in class or at an event, and they’re scowling, and they don’t want to be there. This is a person maybe who stays at home everyday, refusing to go out because they don’t want to see anyone except themselves.”

His eyes perk up. He knows what I’m talking about. Boys around him lean in to hear how Ms. Shyu’s description of the anti-social ties to middle school math.

“Prime numbers are anti-social. They only chill with themselves. And 1. Everyone likes 1.”

Here comes a demonstration of figuring out if 13 is a prime number. Oohs and aahs ensue.

“You, son, are a composite number. Composite numbers like to hang out with themselves, and 1, but also with lots of other numbers. Composite numbers are social. They have lots of friends.”

Guffawing begins. He figures out on his own that 12 is a composite number. He is a composite number. My work is (sort of) done.

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