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Stanford Report, February 23, 2000

Breathing life into math: Orr offers advice on what not to do in the classroom

BY TRACY HAMPTON

Encouraging students to blow bubbles in class may seem different from the days of telling them to sit quietly and take good notes. But according to Lynn Orr, dean of the School of Earth Sciences, the approach helps students learn.

"You can have much more fun washing dishes if you understand a little bit about surface tension and why it makes grease spread out," Orr told an audience during a Feb. 10 lecture on teaching the ideas behind mathematical equations.

Orr's talk was part of the "Award-Winning Teachers on Teaching" series sponsored by the Center for Teaching and Learning. A specialist in the quantitative aspects of fluid behavior in porous media, Orr received the Distinguished Achievement Award for Petroleum Engineering Faculty from the Society of Petroleum Engineers in 1993 and the School of Earth Sciences Teaching Award in 1994.