Larry Lesser, Ph.D., professor of mathematical sciences, has again won recognition in national song contests sponsored by the National Museum of Mathematics (MoMath), and the Consortium for the Advancement of Undergraduate Statistics Education (CAUSE).
Both of Lesser’s entries in MoMath’s 2017 math song contest were among those selected from 50 entries as winners invited to be performed at the Museum in April. The songs – “Statistician’s BLUEs,” an original, pun-filled breakup song, and “Mean,” a Taylor Swift parody about why the mean is not a good summary of highly skewed data.
Lesser also had two award-winning songs in the CAUSE 2017 A-mu-sing contest: Lesser won first place for “Losing Cause,” an original song illustrating how correlation need not imply causation, and second place for “Question the Questions,” an original song illustrating pitfalls in writing survey questions.
Lesser has had award-winning songs in each of the two previous song competitions sponsored by each of those organizations.
“When I started songwriting 34 years ago, I dreamed of one day getting national recognition for it, but didn’t know it would be for songs that motivate and support STEM learning,” Lesser said. “I’m grateful to my students for inspiring many of the topics and genres I choose, and I’m grateful to my Music Department friends for working with me to produce interactive statistics songs for my latest NSF grant.”
Beyond song contest recognition, Lesser has applied his talent for writing engaging songs to the learning of STEM content, including his current National Science Foundation grant, Project SMILES, in which he co-wrote (with UTEP music professor Dominic Dousa) 11 interactive songs that will be assessed for their potential to engage and improve student learning in introductory statistics. To increase dissemination and impact beyond statistics to all STEM areas, Lesser’s grant also supports the debut of VOICES: Virtual Ongoing Interdisciplinary Conferences on Educating with Song.