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The goal of a math presentation is to inform an audience about a specific topic. It can be done in a form of a lecture, a talk at a colloquium, or a speech at an academic conference. Speaking in public may be scary because no one actually teaches students to deliver a speech, but you will feel more confident and avoid anxiety if you take the time to prepare well and follow a certain formula.
Today, most presentations make some use of visuals and the most common technique is using PowerPoint. That’s why the ability to make a PowerPoint presentation is a valuable skill that can be useful for any student and can help them succeed in their academic and professional careers. But before you start making slides, you need to choose an engaging topic and write a text for your presentation. Another way to approach making your math presentation is to plan your slides and your oral presentation together because they are actually mutually supporting activities.
Writing well in math requires practice, careful composition, editing, and proofreading as well as attention to detail and target audience. Keep in mind that writing in mathematics should be clear, precise, concise, and objective. It often involves combining precise descriptions with calculations, equations, algorithms, proofs, graphs, tables, code, and more. When making your math presentations, you should communicate mathematical ideas with clarity to enhance your audience’s knowledge of the subject and provide them with insight.
The general recommendation is that you should choose a topic you are interested in. You will enjoy working on your project and your audience will notice that you are passionate about the subject of your oral presentation and will appreciate it. And you’ll feel more confident when making your presentation.
But you should also choose a topic with your target audience in mind. Your audience could be students in the class, math majors, and the faculty. Remember that some people may not be familiar with your particular topic, so you should determine the level of knowledge of your audience. You should tailor the complexity of your presentation to the needs of those who will listen to it. Choose a subject that you think your intended audience will like but don’t expect that they know much about it.
Here is a short list of topics for a fabulous math presentation. You may use them for inspiration.
Any presentation should be straightforward and logical. It’s up to you to decide how you are going to present your message, but you’d better avoid complex structures. For example, you may use a basic presentation structure like this one:
In fact, structuring a math presentation doesn’t differ much from writing a report or an essay. And you should make sure that all parts of your talk are linked clearly. Now let’s discuss the parts of the basic presentation structure one by one.
In the introduction, you need to explain the content of your presentation and its purpose. It’s the most important section of your presentation because you need to gain your listeners’ interest and confidence.
If you deliver a speech in front of the people who don’t know you, you should start by introducing yourself like this:
‘Good afternoon, my name is John and…’
Then, you have to tell your audience what you are going to discuss and how you will approach your subject (describe, evaluate, compare, contrast, etc.):
‘I am going to explore … and I will be describing the concept … and comparing it to …’
You should also tell about the expected outcome of your talk:
‘I hope this explanation will provide us with a better understanding of …’
Besides, you should explain what your listeners will need to do, for example, whether they can ask questions:
‘At the end of my presentation, I will pass around a handout with a summary of my key points, and you will be able to ask questions.’
You may explain to your audience why you are interested in the subject, tell them an anecdote, or start with a provocative question. Then you need to present your thesis statement and briefly overview your outline. You may give some background information to provide a context for your subject and define some important terms. You can also relate the subject of your math presentation to other topics.
You need to tell your audience about your research. Reread your research notes and choose 3 main points that you would like to make. Then think about supporting information that you can use to clarify them. Don’t try to include more than 3 ideas in a short presentation because your audience may find it hard to follow such a complex argument without the significant assistance from the presenter. You can include factual data, explanations of the processes, formulas, equations, and complex terms or provide some details about possible applications. You can clarify your argument using diagrams and support your claims with appropriate data. Try to use intuitive definitions and simple examples, avoiding technical details.
It’s important to ensure the logical flow of your presentation, so you should use linking statements to highlight your next points and link them to the previous ideas. They will show how your major points fit together and will help your audience follow your logic. You may say:
‘The next stage in our research was …’
‘I will begin by explaining …’
‘Another important aspect to consider is …’
An effective conclusion is your last chance to impress your audience and make your math presentation memorable. In this part of your talk, you should provide a summary of your content, remind yourself about the purpose of your talk, and briefly overview of what you managed to achieve. Remember that your listeners won’t remember your entire presentation in mathematics – they can remember only the key ideas, so you should review and reinforce them. After that, you can give your listeners some recommendations about taking this work further and thank your audience for their attention. Finally, you should invite them to ask questions or comment on your ideas.
When you prepare PowerPoint slides, you need to organize the key information in bulleted lists. You should tailor the number of the slides and their order to the content of your presentation. The first slide should act as the title page and include the title of your presentation, your name, the name of your university, and the date. Make sure that your title is short and informative. You can also include an abstract where you may indicate the level of your presentation, but you don’t need to read this slide aloud. For example, you may write:
‘This presentation is suitable for those who have studied exponential and logarithmic functions.’
Devote the next several slides to the introduction or background information. Then make some slides showing the results of your investigation and include supporting output and graphs. Continue the presentation with a conclusion where you tell about some strengths and weaknesses or outline the future study. Your last slides should be devoted to references.
Follow these tips to make your slides visually appealing:
If you are going to create a presentation for the first time, you should try Microsoft PowerPoint or Google Slides to practice. If you are experienced but tired of the PPT program, you can try other tools to create a presentation in Mathematics. The list below has top-three choices for advanced students:
When you finish the final draft of your presentation in mathematics, you should review it and edit it to ensure that your ideas are conveyed in the most effective way.
You should practice delivering your presentation in advance with a real audience, even if it is one person (or your cat). And you should do it several times to make sure that your talk fits within the time parameters. A good idea is to prepare prompts that will help you remember what to say next and will prevent you from reading your presentation. In this way, you will increase your credibility as a speaker. Create small cue cards with lists of main points, supporting details, and examples, and number your cards to see their sequence. You will feel more confident if you rehearse your presentation in front of the mirror. In this way, you will learn to control your posture and your body language.
Any oral presentation is actually a performance. If you want to impress your audience, you should do your best to act like a confident speaker. Many people feel nervous when they have to deliver a talk in front of an audience, so it’s quite natural if you feel worried too. Being well-prepared will help you reduce anxiety. That’s why you should rehearse a lot and make sure that your cue cards are arranged in the right order. Besides, you should check that all visuals work properly.
When giving your math presentation, you should smile so at least, you will appear relaxed. It’s better to speak using a formal but conversational tone and avoid colloquial language. You should slow down or make pauses to emphasize important points.
We hope that our easy guide will help you prepare and deliver an effective oral presentation in mathematics that will make a great impact on your audience. Follow these useful tips to feel more confident during your math presentation, and you are sure to succeed.