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Pixar Is Showing Kids the Magic of Math in Movie Making

Image Source: Craig Yoshihara
Image Source: Craig Yoshihara

What good is math anyway?

Besides counting change at the grocery store, why would anyone need to learn about this stuff? Unless you’re going to be a mathematician, a scientist, or a teacher, it seems pretty useless beyond the basics. That is until you realize that stuff like science, technology, engineering and yes, even math are responsible for the stuff you see in a Pixar movie. Finding Dory? Math. Inside Out? Math. Toy Story? Math. And that’s when things begin to change.

Opening up kids’ minds to new possibilities and to show them worlds they didn’t dream of is the business Pixar is in, but now they are doing it in a totally different way — by showing them how important STEM subjects in school can be. They have helped put together an exhibit called “The Science Behind Pixar” and it is fascinating! Currently being housed at the California Science Center in Los Angeles, the more than 40 interactive stations are a lot of fun, but more importantly they show in subtle ways how important these subjects are in creating the stories we see on the screen.

My daughter loves math. And she’s good at it. She might even one day decide to pursue a career in it. Right now she’s dreaming of being a lawyer, but she has such a fondness for math, I could see her deciding to do something with it. But what? It’s the same question Lindsey Collins pondered. The producer of Finding Dory took a moment to talk with me while we stood in front of an exhibit featuring her title character.

Image Source: Craig Yoshihara
Image Source: Craig Yoshihara

“I have three kids and my oldest is in the middle of algebra at the moment and he keeps looking at me like ‘When am I ever going to use this?!’ And it’s so great to be able to show kids something that they wouldn’t imagine is math! They’ve never associated it that way,” she told Babble. They’ve always associated it with art. To have them actually see the combination of the two is such a cool thing because I think they stop thinking of it then in terms of memorization or numbers or a subject matter in school, and start to see what it can do when it’s applied to totally different circumstances, like in a movie.”

It’s mind-bending to go from exhibit to exhibit and play with all the cool stuff. You get the chance to make your own stop-motion movie, you can direct the lighting on the set of UP!, you can build your own robot like Wall-E, you can even make Jesse from Toy Story change facial expressions. Through it all, in subtle ways you discover that science, technology, engineering, and math are at the heart of it. I was listening to the video at one of the stations and the guy on the screen said, “… and we have to use trigonometry to figure that out,” and I thought, Wow! That stuff really is useful!

Image Source: Craig Yoshihara
Image Source: Craig Yoshihara

So when my daughter wants to know if there’s a career in math that she can be a part of, I’ll know what to say. Sure, she can be a mathematician, a scientist, or a teacher — all super important fields to be a part of. But there are so many other ways she can use these vital skills, too. Maybe she’ll be a director or producer of a Pixar movie herself one day? The sky is the limit!

For more info on “The Science of Pixar” exhibit, visit California Science Center.

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Article Posted 3 years Ago

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