Math in Film and Media

I decided to create this page after seeing a presentation at the 2020 KYMATYC Conference on ‘Math in Media.’ Here I’m sharing things I learned during this session. I have also added some of my thoughts and items to the list. If you have any others that you think would be helpful to add to this list, please let me know!

Although I had used films before (see the list below), I hadn’t thought about using them to introduce topics in class or thought more about integrating them into discussion forums in online courses. The KYMATYC Session opened my eyes to a plethora of new ideas!

Semester Film Discussion Questions
Fall 2018 Fermat’s Last Theorem Questions
Winter 2018 Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room Questions
Fall 2017 The Big Short  
Winter 2017 The Man Who Knew Infinity Questions
Fall 2015 N is A Number: Portrait of Paul Erdös Questions
Winter 2015 21 Questions
Fall 2014 Good Will Hunting Questions
Winter 2014 A Beautiful Mind Questions
Fall 2013 Proof Questions
Winter 2013 Stand and Deliver Questions

Items from the KYMATYC Conference

Film Topic/Usage
RHIANNA What’s My Name Lyrics say, “the square root of 69 is 8 something.” Use to introduce linear approximation.
Time-Lapse of Baby Learning to Walk Ask students why they are being shown the video. Show that learning requires falling down and major change takes time. Good for use in an online class discussion forum.
Star Wars Episode IV – A New Hope (1977) – Trash Compactor Squeeze Theorem
L’enfant et les sortilèges Arithmetic (see here for details)
What’s our vector, Victor? Vectors
Back to the Future Model Scene Introduce Modeling. What is modeling and why do we use it?
Dr Seuss’ The Sneetches Full Version Functions, Domain, Range, Inverses
Clarke and Dawe – The Front Fell Off Related Rates
The Expert (Short Comedy Sketch) Parallel and Perpendicular lines; triangles
Father of the Bride – Hot Dogs/Hot Dog Buns Least Common Multiples
Ma & Pa Kettle Math Arithmetic, Counting, Multiplying
OCC vs Metric System Fractions, Systems of Measurement
The Log Song – Ren & Stimpy Logarithms
Sir Cumference and The First Round Table “Sir Cumference” is a series of Math books. This is just a reading of one of them.

Other Items I’ve Collected Since

Film Topic/Usage
“The Way Back” Trailer Basketball Statistics
Working together to make things happen: JP Cardoso at TEDxBrainport
Importance of Groupwork
The Math People Myth | Nate Brown | TEDxPSU  
How likely is a shark attack? – Gerd Gigerenzer | TED-Ed Probability and Likelihood
AWESOME ALGEBRA MUSIC VIDEO y=mx + b (catchiest song you’ll ever hear)
Because I said I would Personal Development Videos Time Management, etc.
Exponential growth and epidemics Exponential Growth
MSNBC host, New York Times journalist make huge on-air maths blunder Arithmetic; basic math
TED-Ed – Where do Math Symbols come from?  
TED-Ed – The greatest mathematician that never lived – Pratik Aghor  

Other Items of Interest

My Thoughts on Using TED Talks in the Classroom
Jeff Clark’s Math in the Movies
MAA’s Math in the Movies
Mathematics in Movies (Harvard)
Math and the Movies (with worksheets)
Math in Movies (Don Allen, TAMU)
10 Best Math Movies
13 must-see mathematics movies inspired by true events
The Mathematical Movie Database
My Math Movie Picks (Harbourne, UNL)
Talks for people who hated math in high school

Resources from “Math and the Movies” by Dr. Joseph Teran (2021 National Math Fest Presentation) – Who made the ocean flow in “Moana”? Who made the snow swirl in “Frozen”? Mathematicians, that’s who! While this talk about the math behind the magic of modern movie visual effects was not recorded due to copyrighted content, Dr. Teran shared some additional guidance for students interested in pursuing a career in this field. In addition, we’ve added several free resources to learn more in our More Math! collection.