The Mathematics of Storytelling

The question from a couple of posts back was “When are we ever going to use this?”, something frequently asked by students in my Algebra and Geometry classes.

The Senior Scientist from Pixar offers an answer for kids interested in animation and movie making as he explains how math is used in their storytelling.

The topic of DeRose’s lecture is “Math in the Movies.” This topic is his job: translating principles of arithmetic, geometry, and algebra into software that renders objects or powers physics engines. This process is much the same at Pixar as it is at other computer animation or video game studios, he explains; part of why he’s here is to explain why aspiring animators and game designers need a solid base in mathematics.

And how important is that solid base?

Pixar’s biggest competitive advantage now is its ability to use this math-driven technology not to make better shapes but to tell better stories. DeRose and Pixar aren’t sitting on their laurels. “Somewhere out there, a brilliant kid and their friends are working in their garage” using and improving on tools like Blender, DeRose tells the assembled children and adults at MoMath. “They will be the next Pixar.”

However, there’s a big disconnect between what DeRose is discussing and the reality of the math curriculum in most schools. During their time in K12 classrooms very few kids will get to study the creative applications of math used in animation or be allowed to use any of that “math-driven technology”.

We gotta stick to what’s on the test.

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