Saturday, September 4, 2010

Math and the Big Screen

It seems weird to think about math and movies... and, to be honest, I don't know of any proper movies** that deal with math (other than Good Will Hunting, and that's not really about math). But there are some fantastic videos out there about math ideas and concepts that are truly worth watching.

This is our favourite. The Story of 1.

Terry Jones, of Monty Python fame, has put together a brilliant show about the history of mathematics. The star of the show is the numeral 1 and later in the show, his co-star 0 shows up.

This video is a wonderful way for children (and adults) to learn about how and why mathematics came to be. It provides a historical context to numbers and their purpose that brings the whole field alive.

Children as young as 6 years may enjoy this quirky and funny film.

The Story of Math. Or The Story of Maths (as it was originally titled in Britain).

Marcus du Sautoy, a professor of Mathematics at Oxford University, picks up with Jones left off... with a more detailed, more thorough exploration of the history of mathematics. He, too, begins at the beginning and takes the viewer through 2 disks of 4 episodes.

In addition to The Story of Math, this set also has The Music of the Primes, which is a one-hour investigation into the distribution of prime numbers. Fascinating stuff.

Between the Folds tells the stories of 10 artists and scientists/mathematicians who are into paperfolding. One of the mathematicians interviewed on the show is Erik Demaine, the homeschooled boy from Nova Scotia who became MIT's youngest professor at the age of 20.

This is an inspiring and gorgeous film that provides unexpected insights into an art form that is also deeply embedded in mathematics and science.

Devine Entertainment created a dramatic series about famous and important inventors that aired on HBO. It's a great series that's entertaining as well as educational. Isaac Newton is one of the inventors showcased and although this video focuses mainly on his scientific discoveries, it does give provide some background information about the man (or one of the men) who invented Calculus. Newton: A Tale of Two Isaacs.

Other videos that we haven't watched yet but will:

Bill Nye's Algebra DVDs

Nova: Fractals - Hunting the Hidden Dimension

Flatland: The Movie

Nova - Infinite Secrets: The Genius of Archimedes

Nova: Newton's Dark Secrets

There is a point, too, where mathematics and science (particularly physical science) overlap to the point of being indiscernibly separate. I will discuss more videos when we arrive at Science.

Until then, please enjoy.

**NOTE: There are people who have pulled together lists of real movies that have real math in them. Some may not be intended for kids or teens to view. Here are the links:

Mathematics in Movies

Math in the Movies

Math and the Movies