"Math and the Movies" Part One

Movie Clip Descriptions and Worksheets
Throughout our years of teaching we have used (and continue to use) movie clips in our classrooms to enhance content and engage our students.  This listing is a sample of the types of movies we find useful.  The accompanying worksheets are our mathematical interpretations and applications of information presented in these clips.  Obviously, other interpretations are also possible.  These materials were designed to enhance content across the secondary and post-secondary mathematics curricula.  Our personal "mathematical" movie library contains purchased copies, in either VHS or DVD format, of all of the movies mentioned here.       (Fred and Donna Roberts, MathBits.com)

 

MathBits Main Page | Movie Main Page | MathMovies PART 2 | Terms of Use

Notice:  While these resources are offered free of charge as educational materials for the  mathematics classroom, they are copyrighted and are NOT public domain.
Please read the
terms of use.

Do not publicly distribute these materials or repost them to the Internet.

It is our understanding that it is an infringement of copyright law to post movie clips of any length to the Internet without written permission from the owner/author/movie studio (who seldom, if ever, grant such permission).  If you know otherwise, please let us know. 
Roberts@mathbits.com
(
It may be possible to find many of these video clips by searching the Internet. We have been unable, however, to verify that such clips (when found) are posted with permission of the authors, so please use with caution.)

DVD and VHS box pictures are of the movie packages owned by Fred and Donna.  While some of the boxes are from  "collection" sets or "special" editions, these movies can also be purchased as single copies.
Purchase movies (new or used) on-line at locations such as Amazon.com.
We have purchased "used" videos with no problems.

Calculator references made in these materials pertain to the TI-83+/84+ and/or the TI-Nspire.


"Math and the Movies" Part One
Abbott and Costello
Worksheet Grade Levels 7 - 9
(
Basic Math to Algebra 1)

 

Strip Abbott and Costello: In the Navy  (1941 – Universal Studios)
STORY: Comedians, Bud Abbott and Lou Costello, have joined the Navy.  Lou is attempting to make seven batches of thirteen donuts each for the Naval officers.  He cooks 28 donuts, claiming that 7 x 13 = 28.  Lou shows in three different ways that his mathematics is correct.
DIRECTIONS to STUDENTS: Watch carefully for Lou's mathematical techniques.
CLIP: The clip begins with Bud, Lou and Dizzy examining a tray of freshly made donuts. Lou explains the situation and shows that 7 x 13 = 28. The clip ends when Lou hangs his hat on an imaginary hook he draws on the chalkboard.
MathBits’ Worksheet:   A “what went wrong?” scenario; examinations of division, multiplication and addition; algebraic investigations to disprove Lou’s conjectures.  
Ma and Pa Kettle
Worksheet Grade Levels 7 - 9
(Basic Math to Algebra 1)
 
strip Ma & Pa Kettle Back on the Farm (1951 – Universal Studios)
STORY: Ma and Pa Kettle display their skills with finances by showing that 25 divided by 5 is 14. (same scenario as the Abbott and Costello routine).
CLIP: The clip begins when Billy states that 75% of the money will go to Ma and Pa with the remaining 25% to be divided among 5 others. When Billy explains that each of the 5 individuals will receive 5%, Pa states that it is actually 14% and shows the calculations. The clip ends with a frustrated look on Billy's face.
MathBits' Worksheet  A “what went wrong?” scenario; examinations of division, multiplication and addition; algebraic investigations to disprove Ma and Pa’s conjectures.  
(This worksheet asks the same questions as those on the Abbott and Costello worksheet.)

 

Alice in Wonderland
Worksheet Grade Levels 8 - 10
(PreAlgebra to Geometry)
 
strip Alice in Wonderland (1999 – Lions Gate Studio – made for TV)
STORY: This is a three-hour made for TV special about Lewis Carroll's "Alice in Wonderland" and contains many of the mathematical antics of its author.  A discussion at the Mad Hatter's tea party focuses on statements and converses.
CLIP: The clip starts at the Mad Hatter's tea party table. The Mad Hatter (Martin Short) is sitting at the head of the table and asks "Why is a raven like a writing desk?". A series of statements and their converses are discussed. The clip ends when the dormouse falls back to sleep after his contribution to the discussion.
DIRECTIONS to STUDENTS:
Listen carefully! You may be easily distracted by the activity at the dining table, but focus on the discussion. Listen for statements and converses.
MathBits’ Worksheet:  Working with inverse, converse, contrapositive and their truth values. Also an investigation of truth values on the graphing calculator.

 
Contact
Worksheet Grade Levels 7 - 10
(Basic Math to
Geometry
)
 
strip Contact (1997 – Warner Home Video)
STORY: Contact, based on the novel by astronomer Carl Sagan, is the story of a free thinking radio astronomer who discovers an intelligent signal broadcast from deep space. Mathematics
is seen as the means of communication with an alien civilization (through prime numbers).
CLIP: The clip starts when Dr. Ellie Arroway (Jodie Foster) and her crew hear a signal of radio transmissions which are patterning prime numbers. The clip ends when Ellie is asked who should be informed, and she replies "everyone".
DIRECTIONS and INFO for STUDENTS:
Scientists have actually hypothesized that should we receive a signal from intelligent life it will be in the language of mathematics. Project META at Harvard University, which searches for alien signals, listens for the occurrence of prime numbers (according to astrophysicists Cocconi and Morrison). Listen for the references to prime numbers as you see this clip.
MathBits’ Worksheet: Sieve of Eratosthenes, Fundamental Theorem of Arithmetic, Twin Primes, Germain Primes, Relatively Prime, E-commerce encryption using primes.  Graphing calculator used for computations and investigations.

 
Donald in MathMagicLand
Worksheet Grade Levels 10 - 11
(Geometry to
Algebra 2)


 
strip Donald in Mathmagic Land (1959 – Buena Vista Home Video)
STORY: Disney’s Donald Duck has a series of adventures dealing with mathematics, including discoveries about the Golden Ratio.
CLIP: The clip starts with Donald shaking hands with Pythagoras. The Golden Ratio and the Golden Section are then explained. The clip ends with Donald trying to squeeze himself into a Golden Rectangle to show that his body has ideal proportions.
DIRECTIONS for STUDENTS:
Watch for references to the Golden Rectangle, Golden Section, Golden Ratio.
MathBits’ Worksheet:  Constructing a golden rectangle; investigating the golden rectangle's connection to quadratics using algebra and the graphing calculator; and investigating the golden rectangle and the Pythagorean theorem.
 
Lucy
Worksheet Grade Levels 11-12
(Algebra 2 to
PreCalculus)
 
strip I Love Lucy: Episode 39: “Job Switching“ or “The Candy Factory” (1952 – Paramount Studios)
STORY: The husbands, Ricky and Fred, think that doing housework is much easier than earning money. So, the boys stay at home and do the housework while Lucy and Ethel take a job at a candy factory. Comedic situations arise as candies progress down a conveyor belt. 
CLIP:
The clip starts with Lucy and Ethel standing in front of a conveyor belt in a candy factory lamenting that they have been unsuccessful working in other departments. The ladies then attempt to wrap the candies as they progress down the belt. The clip ends with the work administrator instructing that the belt be increased in speed.
DIRECTIONS for STUDENTS
:
Watch the candy as it progresses down the conveyor belt.
MathBits’ Worksheet:   Dealing with patterns and sequences, average daily inventory.  Graphing calculator used for investigative analysis.

 
Star Wars
Worksheet Grade Levels 11 - 12
(Algebra 2 to
PreCalculus)
 
strip Star Wars - Episode I, The Phantom Menace
(1999 – 20th Century Fox)

STORY: This is the first episode of the adventures of young Anakin Skywalker (Darth Vader).
The famous pod race at Mos Espa Arena circuit weaves through a flat-topped mountain called Ben’s Mesa.  Here is where young Anakin Skywalker wins the Boonta Eve Classic Podrace. 
CLIP: The clip begins at the start of the Boonta Eve Classic Podrace as young Anakin encounters difficulties with his engine. The clip ends after 2 or 3 minutes of the race.
DIRECTIONS for STUDENTS:
Enjoy the race scenes.
MathBits’ Worksheet:  The map of a pod race circuit and locations along the track are the focus of this mathematical investigation. Law of sines, Law of cosines.  Graphing calculator used for computation and investigation.

 
Star Trek
Worksheet 1
Grades 11 - 12
(Algebra 2 to
PreCalculus)

Worksheet 2
Grades 6 - 9
(Basic Math to Algebra 1)

 
strip Star Trek -The Original Series, Vol. 21, Episodes 42:
The Trouble With Tribbles  (1966 – Paramount Studios)
STORY: Tribbles are cute, furry little creatures in the Star Trek world. Being Hermaphrodites (both male and female), a tribble can produce a litter of 10 babies every 12 hours, assuming none die. One tribble is trapped in the grain hold of the Starship Enterprise for 3 days.  Spock proclaims that there are now 1,771,561 tribbles.
CLIP: The clip starts with Captain Kirk (William Shatner) standing under the grain hold door with tribbles falling on his head. An exchange of information ensures. The clip ends with Mr. Spock explaining how many tribbles are in the grain hold.
DIRECTIONS for STUDENTS: Listen to Spock's statement about the number of tribbles. Is Spock mathematically correct?
MathBits’ Worksheet 1:   Population growth, exponential regressions examined on the graphing calculator.
MathBits’ Worksheet 2:   Measurement and volume.  Graphing calculator used for computation and investigation.

 
Englishman
Worksheet Grade Level 11 - 12
(Algebra 2 to
PreCalculus)
 
strip The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain (1995 – Walt Disney Video)
STORY: This is a 1917 tale of a small village in Wales, that prides itself on being the location of the "first mountain in Wales". Two English cartographers arrive, measure the mountain, and deem it to be only a "hill". Refusing to lose yet one more thing during war time, the inhabitants heroically set out to increase the height of Ffynnon Garw to mountain status. While the name of the mountain is fictitious, the story is a true tale.
CLIP: The clip begins with the cartographers on the mountain explaining to the villagers how the mountain will be measured. The clip ends with the Reverend stating that the first mountain was measured by God.
DIRECTIONS for STUDENTS:
Set the stage by introducing the story. Listen for the method of measuring the mountain.
MathBits’ Worksheet:   Trigonometry, Law of Sines, Proportions in Similar Triangles.  Graphing calculator used for computation and investigation.

 
IQ
Worksheet Grade Levels 11 - 12
(Algebra 2 to PreCalculus)

 
strip I.Q. (1994 – Paramount Studios)
STORY: Albert Einstein comes to the aid of a young garage mechanic (who has fallen in love with Einstein’s mathematically brilliant niece), by helping him to pretend to be a great physicist.  
CLIP: The clip begins with Catherine Boyd (Meg Ryan) looking out a window at the rain as Ed Walters (Tim Robbins) tells her that her uncle expects them to dance. A discussion ensues regarding Zeno's paradox. The clip ends with Catherine remembering that she had a date with her fiancée.
DIRECTIONS for STUDENTS:
Listen for Zeno's Paradox.
MathBits’ Worksheet:   Zeno’s Paradox, Introduction to sum of infinite series as developed on the graphing calculator.

 

Matrix
Worksheet Grade
Levels 10 - 12
(Geometry to PreCalculus)

 
strip The Matrix Revolutions (2003 – Warner Home Video)
STORY: Neo (Keanu Reeves) and the others try to save Zion, the last real-world city and the center of the human resistance. Neo's nemesis, Agent Smith, has learned how to replicate himself (transform) by taking over other organisms.
CLIP: Be aware of the number of Agent Smith's in the scene.
DIRECTIONS for STUDENTS:
The clip starts with a view of the back of Neo's head as he looks down a street lined with replicas of Agent Smith as the rain pours down. An altercation ensues. The clip ends with a spiraling leap into the air in a confrontation with Agent Smith.
MathBits’ Worksheet:  Transformations, glide reflections, composition of transformations, use of graphing calculator with transformations in addition to graph paper work.


Die Hard
Worksheet Grade Levels 7 - 11.
(Basic Math to
Algebra 2)
 
strip Die Hard with a Vengeance (1995 – 20th Century Fox)
STORY: Detective John McClane (Bruce Willis) and Zeus (Samuel L. Jackson) battle against a villain playing a game of “Simon Says.”  During a mad chase across the city solving riddles, our heroes find themselves in a park attempting to defuse a bomb.
CLIP: The clip starts with John and Zeus in the part opening a laptop. A riddle must be answered to defuse a bomb. The clip ends after the riddle is explained and discussed by the heroes. (If you want the students to solve the riddle, stop before an answer is shown. Or come back to the answer after the students have had time to solve the riddle.)
WARNING:
Be careful of the language used in this movie. Your clip may need editing.
DIRECTIONS for STUDENTS:
Listen for the challenge and the conditions.
MathBits’ Worksheet:   Logical reasoning, volume.  Calculator used for computation.

 
October Sky
Worksheet Grade Levels 10 - 12
(Geometry to
PreCalculus)
 
strip October Sky (1999 – Universal Studios)
STORY: The true story of Homer Hickam, a coal miner's son, who was inspired by the first
Sputnik launch to take up rocketry against his father's wishes.  Homer struggles to earn a college scholarship so that he will not end up in the coal mines. Homer uses mathematics to prove that his rocket did not set a fire.   Homer Hickam became a NASA engineer.
CLIP: The clip starts with Homer, his teacher, and the principal in a classroom. Homer is trying to explain that one of his rockets did not start a nearby fire. His mathematical explanation follows. The clip ends when the principal discovers that the fire was started by an aeronautical flare.
DIRECTIONS for STUDENTS:
Listen for Homer's explanation of the flight of the rocket.
MathBits’ Worksheet:  Parabolas, quadratics equations, projectile motion.  Graphing calculator used to display graphical representations of situations and for investigation.

 

Proof
Worksheet Grade Levels 11 - 12
(Algebra 2 to PreCaclulus).
 
strip Proof (2005 Miramax Studios)
STORY: The daughter of a brilliant, but mentally disturbed, mathematician fears that she has inherited his insanity.  While the movie is a rather somber episode, it has a humorous reference to a musical score of the imaginary i.
CLIP 1: The first clip starts with Hal (Jake Gyllenhaal) explaining to Catherine (Gwyneth Paltrow) that a group of mathematicians will be performing at a local celebration. He describes one of their musical pieces as "i", the imaginary number. The first clip ends with Hal explaining that the band is not very good.
CLIP 2:
The second clip starts with an audience listening to the band. The band then plays their musical piece "i". The clip ends after the audience's reaction to this piece.
DIRECTIONS for STUDENTS
: Listen for references to a band of mathematicians and their creative musical works.
MathBits’ Worksheet:  This is a cut-up grid puzzle working with the imaginary i.  Pieces are matched so equivalent expressions are touching. Graphing calculator used for computation.

 
Castaway
Worksheet Grade Levels 6 - 9
(Basic Math to Algebra 1)
 
strip Castaway (2000 – 20th Century Fox)
STORY: Chuck Nolan, a FedEx engineer, struggles to survive on an isolated tropical island after a plane crash in the Pacific.  In assessing the seriousness of the situation, he computes the size of the prospective search area. He laments to his inanimate companion, Wilson (a volleyball), that based upon his mathematical calculations they may never be found.
CLIP: The clip starts with Chuck (Tom Hanks) talking to volleyball, Wilson, about the size of their search and rescue area. Chuck draws a diagram on the cave wall. The clip ends with Chuck telling Wilson that they may never be found.
DIRECTIONS for STUDENTS:
Watch and listen for Chuck's computations.
MathBits’ Worksheet:   Area and circumference of a circle, airplane distances.  Calculator used for computation.

 
Stand and Deliver
Worksheet Grade 12 (Calculus)
 
strip Stand and Deliver (1988 Warner Home Video)
STORY: Teacher Jaime Escalante encourages his Hispanic students to take the Advanced Place Calculus test.  He believes that mathematics will be his students only way to escape the Barrio. The movie portrays the students' struggles to succeed and their courage and determination when asked to re-take the exam. The College Board feels that the students cheated since many answered one question in the same manner. A true inspirational story.
CLIP: The clip starts with the students sitting for a re-take of the AB section of the Advanced Placement Calculus Examination. Questions and student responses are shown. The clip ends after several actual questions are shown.
DIRECTIONS for STUDENTS:
Watch for actual AP Calculus problems and solutions.
MathBits’ Worksheet:  Getting ready for the AP Calculus Exam, word problem on
applied derivatives
.  Graphing calculator used for computation and analysis.

Note:
 The actual 1982 AP Calculus question that caused the controversy regarding Escalante's students cannot be posted on the Internet. The question used on the worksheet is similar in nature to the actual question.

 
Wizard of Oz
Worksheet Grade Levels 10 - 11
(Geometry to Algebra 2)
strip The Wizard of Oz (1939 – Warner Home Video)
STORY: Dorothy Gale (Judy Garland) is swept away to the magical land of Oz in a tornado and embarks on a quest to see the Wizard who can help her return home. Accompanying her on this journey are a scarecrow (looking for a brain), a tin man (looking for a heart), and a lion (looking for courage).
CLIP: The clip starts with the Wizard bestowing a degree of "thinkology" upon the scarecrow. The clips ends with the scarecrow reciting a theorem regarding the sides of an isosceles triangle.
DIRECTIONS for STUDENTS:
Listen for the mathematical statement made by the scarecrow.
MathBits’ Worksheet:  Dealing with triangles, triangle inequalities, Pythagorean
Theorem
, indirect algebraic proof.  Graphing calculator used for computation.

Note: 
See Mathematics Teacher, February, 1987, pgs. 100-101 for an interesting article entitled "Two Views of Oz" by John Pancari and John Pace regarding the scarecrow's theorem.

harry potter
Worksheet Grade Levels 6 - 12
(Basic Math to PreCalculus)
strip Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
(2002 – Warner Home Video)
STORY: Harry Potter and Hermione Granger become trapped in a room with two exits blocked by flames.  To survive, they must solve a logic puzzle.  While this scene does not appear in the movie, it does appear in the book.  The movie can be used as an introduction to where the scene from the book would occur.
CLIP: The clip starts with Harry, Ron and Hermione playing the life-size chess game. Ron is injured and Harry wins the game. Hernione goes to help Ron while Harry proceeds onward. The clip ends with Harry walking down a set of stairs.
DIRECTIONS for STUDENTS:
Enjoy the scene.
MathBits’ Worksheet: 
Logical reasoning.

Harry Potter Book
Book, 1998,
page 285

Worksheet ANSWERS:  Teachers have requested that the answers not be posted for student access.
If a teacher e-mails from a school e-mail address, answers to requested worksheets will be supplied.
Registered parents may also receive answers.

strip

MathBits Main Page | Movie Main Page | MathMovies PART 2 | Terms of Use