Information for

Keynote Speaker: Michael Starbird, University of Texas at Austin

Keynote Session 
Make Mistakes: Fail to Succeed

Creative success is often built on the ash heap of failed attempts. Mistakes are great teachers—they highlight unforeseen opportunities and gaps in your understanding. They also show you which way to turn next. Instructors can embrace the power of failure by consciously inspiring students to learn the productive potential of making mistakes as important steps toward understanding and creativity. Being willing to make and acknowledge mistakes and to learn from them is a liberating habit of effective thinking.

One of the activities we will undertake during the session is for the participants to grapple with some mind-stretching puzzles. Puzzles are great vehicles for illustrating strategies of effective thinking, such as making and learning from mistakes.  Specific attempts that don't quite work often lead to revised attempts that work. As a result of this experience with puzzles, participants will hopefully embrace the idea that brilliance and creativity arise largely from employing effective strategies of thinking rather than mostly from innate talent.


Photo of Michael StarbirdMichael Starbird is a University Distinguished Teaching Professor of Mathematics at The University of Texas at Austin. He directs UT’s Inquiry Based Learning Project. He has been at UT his whole career except for leaves, including to the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. He has received more than fifteen teaching awards including the Mathematical Association of America’s 2007 national teaching award, the statewide Minnie Stevens Piper Professor award, the UT Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Award, and most of the UT-wide teaching awards.

He has given hundreds of lectures and dozens of workshops on effective teaching and effective thinking. He has produced DVD courses for The Teaching Company in the Great Courses Series on calculus, statistics, probability, geometry, and the joy of thinking. His eight books and his six video courses have received critical acclaim and have reached hundreds of thousands of people. He produced an edX MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) titled Effective Thinking Through Mathematics. His books with co-author Edward Burger include The Heart of Mathematics: An invitation to effective thinking and their recent book The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking.

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Important Resources

Purchase Michael Starbird's books (print and electronic versions available):

The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking

The Heart of Mathematics: An invitation to effective thinking