A math prof consults on a movie

A Math Professor Consults on a Hollywood Movie is a fantasy by Ben Orlin on Math with Bad Drawings.
“Where the bomb counts down from 10 to 1? That was well-done,” says the professor. “All the right integers, in just the right order.”

The exec wants a “secret equation” so the villain’s chief scientist can turn all the traffic lights to red to get every car in the city to stop. “What equation would a mathematician use?”

Professor: That’s not what mathematicians do.

Executive: But if you did, what would you use?

Professor: Traffic cones.

Executive: No, I mean with computers.

Professor: You’re using “mathematician” to mean a magical combination of a software developer and an evil wizard. I must be honest. I don’t know what methods such a person would use.

Executive: Let me rephrase. Name a type of equation mathematicians care about.

Professor: You mean… like a partial differential equation?

Executive: Perfect. We’ll work that into the dialogue.

At the climax, Professor Sweetbody discovers a pattern in the graph that reveals where the hostages have been hidden. ”What exactly is this graph?” asks the professor.

Executive: You know. It shows the data. All of the data.

Professor: Does this data include the location of the hostages?

Executive: Sure, why not.

Professor: So Mila Kunis is able to recognize where the hostages are hidden… by looking at a graph of the hostages’ locations? A professor’s training is not necessary for this. A reasonably intelligent dog should suffice. Or even an undergraduate.

Executive: Fine, then. It’s a graph of other data. You know, cell phone calls, or water usage in the city, or whatever.

Professor: Well, golf courses consume a lot of water. Perhaps Mila Kunis could employ a water usage map to find a golf course.

Executive: But the hostages are in an abandoned warehouse.

Professor: That could be revised.

Executive: Look. All I want from you are a bunch of words mathematicians use to describe graphs.

Professor: What, like adjacency matrix, and bipartite, and k-regularity?

Executive: Yes! Perfect.

“Good job on the bomb countdown,” says the professor.

Kids under 17 can’t see ‘Bully” documentary

Children under 17 won’t be able to see a new anti-bullying movie without an adult escort. Bully, which follows five victims and their families through a school year, has been rated R. Producer Harvey Weinstein is protesting the documentary’s rating, which is based on six expletives. The movie will be released March 23.

Stopped Clock lists classic movies about bullying, noting that school principals often are depicted as bullies.

Movie math

Mathematics in Movies features clips of mathematics in movies.

In The Full Monty, laid-off workers try to multiple 10 times 1,000 to determine whether stripping is profitable.

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Danny Kaye sings about the Pythagorean Theorem in Merry Andrew.

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2010: Year of the education documentary

Four documentaries on urban schools are out this summer, reports USA Today.

Teached, directed by activist and one-time Teach For America corps member Kelly Amis: It tackles teacher tenure, bureaucracy and “anti-child work rules that permeate every school in America,” among other issues.

The Cartel, directed by former TV news anchor and reporter Bob Bowdon: It takes on the “unconscionable failure” of New Jersey’s public schools.

The Lottery, an intimate look at four families’ attempts to get their children into an oversubscribed Harlem charter school.

•The biggest and flashiest of the four? Waiting for Superman, directed by Davis Guggenheim, who won an Oscar for … An Inconvenient Truth.

Why so many documentaries? School reform “has gone mainstream,” Fordham’s Mike Petrilli says. Plus Americans like stories about “how small groups of people can change the world.”

Ed reform at the movies

Whitney Tilson’s A Right Denied: The Critical Need for Genuine Education Reform will premiere in New York City on April 7.  The documentary focuses on the “twin achievement gaps that threaten our nation’s future: between the U.S. and our economic competitors, and between low-income, minority students and their more affluent peers,” writes Bob Compton, the Two Million Minute Man.

The Cartel, a movie about the need for school choice, will open this month in San Francisco, LA, DC, New York, Boston, Philly, Chicago, Denver, Houston, St. Louis, and Minneapolis. The film is moving audiences and winning awards, writes Erin O’Connor of Critical Mass.

The Lottery will screen April 29 at New York City’s Tribeca Film Festival. The movie follows four families from Harlem and the Bronx who have entered their children in a charter school lottery.

Schooltime TV

Scribbit, a mom-blogger in Alaska, wonders why her high school age daughter watches so much TV at school.  The daughter watched Enchanted in English class and Ratatouille, The Incredibles, Ice Age and Finding Nemo in German class.

“How many movies do you watch a week?”

She thought a bit, counting up on her fingers and trying to remember. “Oh — I don’t know — five or six, maybe more. We watch TV pretty much every day in at least one class and any time we have a sub they put in movies or something. We watch stuff like Mythbusters a lot and call it chemistry.”

In addition to time-wasting substitutes, the daughter also complained of a P.E. teacher who told students to nap in class  and an English teacher who assigned Mary Stewart’s The Crystal Cave, which is about Merlin, in a unit on the Renaissance.

“The projects we did had nothing to do with the Renaissance either — we do a lot of projects, especially group projects. I think it’s because the teacher doesn’t have to do anything to grade it like they would have to do if we actually wrote a paper or took a test. Some kid built a throne out of hockey pucks and hockey sticks and got an A.”

Core Knowledge wonders: Is this credible? Can it really be that bad?

On Kitchen Table Math, Casey T’s son, a freshman in the ultra-academic International Baccalaureate program, watches “3 movies or TV videos a week, max.”

I realize that I come from the filmstrip era, but that seems like an awful lot of screen-watching to me. I can envision watching a movie of Romeo and Juliet while reading the play in English class, but Finding Nemo isn’t a science movie.