Math Goes to the Movies
Publication Year: 2012
Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Title Page, Copyright
Download PDF (92.4 KB)
About ten years ago, on a whim, we began to collect movies containing mathematics. Now, as a consequence of that whim, we own a library of more than 800 movies on DVD, VHS, 16 mm, Laserdisc, and some strange thing called . . .
Chapter 1 Good Math Hunting
Download PDF (479.9 KB)
Will Hunting, played by Matt Damon, is a mathematical wunderkind. Will has no formal mathematical education, and when we first encounter him as a twenty-year-old in Good Will Hunting (1997), he is working as a janitor . . .
Chapter 2 The Clever Hand Behind A Beautiful Mind
Download PDF (465.8 KB)
A Beautiful Mind (2001) tells the story of John Nash, mathematical genius and winner of the 1994 Nobel Prize for economics, and his struggle with schizophrenia. The movie is very unusual in that the main character is a . . .
Chapter 3 Escalante Stands and Delivers
Download PDF (406.5 KB)
This is one of our favorites. Stand and Deliver (1988) is the story of Jaime Escalante, a mathematics teacher from Bolivia who comes to Garfield High, a poor and poorly run school in the Latino area of East Los Angeles. He is . . .
Chapter 4 The Annotated Pi Files
Download PDF (362.4 KB)
Darren Aronosky’s π (1998) is an excellent, dark movie. Featuring a clever script, very good acting, and plenty of beautiful mathematics, this is a mustsee cult movie, and a great source for mathematical . . .
Chapter 5 Nitpicking in Mathmagic Land
Download PDF (780.4 KB)
In Donald in Mathmagic Land (1959), we accompany Donald Duck (played by himself) as the True Spirit of Adventure introduces him to the wonders of mathematics. This gem of a movie is to mathematics what . . .
Chapter 6 Escape from the Cube
Download PDF (174.4 KB)
The mathematics behind the Cube really works. In fact, the Cube was designed by David W. Pravica, a professor of mathematics at East Carolina University.1 Pravica was also consulted during the making of the movie, . . .
Chapter 7 The Incredible Shrinking Room
Download PDF (138.4 KB)
Fermat’s Room (La Habitaci´on de Fermat) (2007) is a Spanish movie reminiscent of Cube (1997). Four “mathematicians,” strangers to each other, are invited to a party by a mysterious host who calls himself Fermat. . . .
Chapter 8 Murder in the Hot House
Download PDF (328.9 KB)
In “Hot House” (2010), two mathematicians are murdered. The first, Christopher Bolingbroke, is a former professor of pure mathematics at the University of Melbourne. He is now spending his time coaching brilliant math students, . . .
Chapter 9 A Word Problem for Die Hards
Download PDF (108.7 KB)
In Die Hard: With a Vengeance (1995), John (Bruce Willis) and Zeus (Samuel L. Jackson) have been set a little problem by the villain, Simon . . .
Chapter 10 7 × 13 = 28
Download PDF (191.1 KB)
A number of Abbott and Costello’s memorable routines have a mathematical flavor. The clear standout is the donut scene in In the Navy (1941).1 Lou Costello plays Pomeroy, a baker, and Bud Abbott is his . . .
Chapter 11 One Mirror Has Two Faces, Two Mirrors Have . . .
Download PDF (1.2 MB)
The Mirror Has Two Faces (1996) is an unusual story for Hollywood: boy meets girl, boy and girl have trouble, and eventually both live happily ever . . .
Chapter 12 It’s My Turn for Some Serious Mathematics
Download PDF (256.1 KB)
To our knowledge, It’s My Turn (1980) is the only movie with a scene dedicated to the detailed proof of a mathematical theorem.1 It is astonishing to have such a scene begin a Hollywood movie. Perhaps even more . . .
Chapter 13 Beautiful Math, or Better Off Dead
Download PDF (209.1 KB)
There are two kinds of people: those who think that math is beautiful; and those who think that those who think that math is beautiful are crazy. On occasion, one of the former meets one of the latter, and chances are . . .
Chapter 14 Pythagoras and Fermat at the Movies
Download PDF (237.3 KB)
Pythagoras’s theorem and Fermat’s last theorem are two of the superstars of mathematics. In this chapter we’ll see what the movies can, and cannot, teach us about these . . .
Chapter 15 Survival in the Fourth Dimension
Download PDF (294.4 KB)
In The Simpsons episode “Homer3,” Homer is seeking to hide from Marge’s sisters and discovers a portal to the third dimension. Rather than face the sisters, he takes his chances in the mystery world, and gets . . .
Chapter 16 To Infinity, and Beyond!
Download PDF (315.5 KB)
So exclaims Buzz Lightyear in the Toy Story movies. However, Buzz is referring to his willingness to travel to the ends of the Universe in order to save his pal Woody. He is unlikely to be as gung ho in the realm of . . .
Chapter 17 Problem Corner
Download PDF (181.2 KB)
Thérèse is a mathematical prodigy in Antonia’s Line (1985). We see her as a young girl, her precociousness on . . .
Chapter 18 Money-Back Bloopers
Download PDF (257.4 KB)
It’s pretty hard for a movie with math to totally avoid bloopers. However, some are simply unforgivable, or are forgivable and just really, really funny. In this chapter, we’ve collected some of . . .
Chapter 19 The Funny Files
Download PDF (222.0 KB)
The previous chapter was dedicated to listing the funniest mathematical bloopers. Here, we list the funniest math scenes that are . . .
Part III Lists
Chapter 20 People Lists
Download PDF (237.7 KB)
For this chapter, we have compiled a number of annotated lists of mathematical . . .
Download PDF (309.1 KB)
Page Count: 352
Illustrations: 97 halftones, 58 line drawings
Publication Year: 2012