Math Goes to the Movies!


At my school, the week back after winter break is known as “winterm”. Winterm is a time where teachers can explore their passions by creating and teaching any class they like. Some teachers plan trips for students to go on as well. There are two classes each day. The morning session is from eight til eleven and the afternoon session goes from noon to thurl.jpgree. Teachers also have the option of teaching an all day class. I decided to teach an afternoon class called Math goes to the Movies!

Let me start off by saying that 3 hours is a LONG class to plan for. That’s 15 hours worth of content!! Students don’t receive a grade for their winterm class either so besides intrinsic motivation to learn something new, students have no motivation to be engaged. This class also consisted of students will all different levels of math, so it wScreen Shot 2016-01-07 at 10.17.05 AMas tricky finding material that all students could do.

My original plan for the class was to have students work through Pixar in the Box on Khan Academy the entire time. Pixar in a box is really cool because it explores how animated movies are made using math. However, after the first day I realized how long (and kinda boring) three hours at a computer is!


Day two I decided to change it up a bit. I started class by showing clips from tv shows and movies that mentioned math. I showed a clip from the show The Office where Oscar is explaining what a surplus is to Michael. For my baseball fans, I showed a clip from Moneyball and briefly discussed the use of statistics in baseball. Next I showed a clip from Like Mike. This clip looked at different types of triangles in geometry. Lastly I put on the clip from the Wizard of Oz where the Scarecrow incorrectly states the Pythagorean theorem. After we watched the clip by students worked through a worksheet from Mathbits (scroll down the site page for the worksheet)  that deals with triangle inequalities, the Pythagorean theorem and indirect algebraic proof proving the scarecrows theorem to be false.

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Next I had students choose any activity from Pixar in Box to work on with a partner. I found that letting them work with a partner added more discussion about the activity. The last activity of the class was to watch the TV-show Numb3rs.  If you haven’t seen Numb3rs I highly recommend it. It’s a show all about using math to investigate and solve crimes.

Day 3 started out with exploring the New Starwars movie. We did a Desmos Activity that had students make box office predictions for Stars Wars VII: The Force Awakens, based on the first six days of release.IMG_6852

We also did a Race to the Death Star with a prize of candy for 1st 2nd and 3rd place. It’s pretty simple math, but it was a fun way to incorporate math into Starwars.

Next we did Dan Meyer‘s Activity involving the movie the Italian Job. This was a really fun activity dealing with the common misconception of the conversion of feet and inches (ex) that 3 ft and 4 inches is 3.4 feet). I highly recommend checking it out.

Students then worked on another Pixar in the Box and then we watched another episode on Numb3rs (they are really getting into it now!! 🙂 )

On Day 4 had students research a movie/tv-show that included a math topic with a partner. They had to research the following:

  • Why is the topic included in the show?
  • Thorough explanation of the math topic, going beyond the given information in the scene.
  • Any historical background on the topic.
  • What the topic is used for?

At the end of class, they had to give a brief presentation of their findings to the class. I originally got this idea from a pre-calculus project I stumbled upon.

Day 5: We watched A Beautiful Mind. What an awesome movie!  🙂






2 thoughts on “Math Goes to the Movies!

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