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Mathematics and the Media

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Mathematical concepts and themes can be found everywhere in the media. The range of ways that math is related to the media is quite broad including the shape of a camera lens, proportion and scale for movie sets, and the convincing nature of numbers used in advertising.

What resources have you been using with your students to study and explain the mathematics involved in the media?

We are compiling this page of resources and will continue to update it as more resources are suggested.

Send suggestions to: Suzanne Alejandre


[Lesson Plans]  [PoWs]  [Dr. Math]  [Other Resources]  [Books]

Lesson Plans

  • Design: Movie Title: Creating an Advertising Campaign - The FUTURES Channel
    If you asked Jessica Shulman about her job as a graphic designer, she'd probably tell you she has the most fun job out there. It is a creative field that requires an understanding of ratios, percents and geometry.

  • Entertaining Mathematics - NCTM: World's Largest Math Event
    This event features mathematical investigations and problems related to the entertainment industry. The 12 activities are divided into four sections: music, film and theater, print media, and television.

  • Media and Behavior - Cheryl Jones, Leah Reingewirtz, Charissa Smith, Rhonda Wixom
    This unit allows students to investigate media from an objective point of view. It encourages students to assess their attitudes and behaviors and see how they are affected by media influences.

  • Models for Movies - The FUTURES Channel
    Building miniature replicas with a full-scale imagination, Greg Jein reproduces every detail of the Star Trek space vessels. Featured: Greg Jein, model maker.

  • Sports Photography - The FUTURES Channel
    Sports photography requires an expert's understanding of light, lenses and shutter speed.



From the Math Forum's Problems of the Week Library [requires membership to access]

  • Mirror Musing
    Using the information given in a picture of Hagrid and Baby Norbert, find out how tall each of them is.

  • At the Movies
    Explore the changes in movie and theater prices.

  • Going Global
    Look at Shakespeare's Globe Theater from a mathematical standpoint - figure out the interior angle of an icosagon and calculate how many people could stand in the "field" in front of and around the stage.

  • Counting Chords
    How many chords can be made using one octave on a piano?

  • Buy This Tune!
    Using data about buying habits of music lovers from 1990 and 1996, predict the results for 2000 and compare those predictions to the actual data.

  • Spinning CDs
    Compare circumference and area of a spinning CD.



From the Ask Dr. Math Archives:

  • A Beautiful Mind Incorrect Maths?
    In publicity shots for the film 'A Beautiful Mind' there is the statement 0 less than pi less than one. Can this ever be true?

  • Raytrace of a Star Sapphire
    How do I find the rotations necessary to create a raytrace of a star sapphire so that the star always faces the camera?



Other Resources

  • Bad Astronomy - Phil Plait
    Movies have a way of imprinting their images on our brain, and those images are not necessarily accurate. Read more about those inaccuracies here.

  • Insultingly Stupid Movie Physics -
    Technonerds go to movies strictly for entertainment, and of course, the most entertaining part comes after the movie when they can dissect, criticize, and argue the merits of every detail. Read more about examples where the filmmakers totally disregard the laws of physics.

  • Mathematical Fiction - Alex Kasman
    A list of works of mathematical fiction compiled by Alex Kasman, Department of Mathematics, College of Charleston.

  • Math in the Movies Page - A. G. Reinhold
    A guide to major motion pictures with scenes of real mathematics. See also: Letters to Math in the Movies



T2T FAQ: Literature and Mathematics
K-12 teachers are seeking ways to connect mathematics and literature. Included are ideas and resources to use in your classrooms.

Math Books Recommended by Mr. Brandenburg
Guy Brandenburg compiled a list of about 80 math-related books, mostly recent, for his geometry students to choose from, read, and do a report on, using recommendations from others and his own reading as well. This page includes the assignment he gave to his students and also the list with links to The list is also available for download as a MS Word document, text file or PDF file.

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