On Explaining


I follow a lot of mathy people on YouTube. By coincidence, two of them made videos at the same time, about the same topic. To me, one video’s explanation was fine, but the other was great. I’m still trying to figure out why.

The topic: binary. Binary is a way of writing down numbers, and it’s different from the way most people are used to. It’s used in computer science a lot. I wrote about this in 2015.

Each of the YouTube videos introduced binary in the context of a puzzle (two different puzzles, though), and stopped to give a short “crash course” on binary. Both of the videos were fun, and I’m including them in full, even though the different explanations of binary are what interest me.

Here is video #1, from a new channel called Infinite Series:

And video #2, from 3Blue1Brown:

To me, there’s a clear winner between the two explanations of binary, at least in most respects. Do you agree? Why? What specifically was good about each explanation? And what can we learn from this about how to explain math better?

I’m still pondering this, and I’d like hear your input!

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