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The maths behind the movies

by Contagious I/O

This story originally appeared on Contagious I/O, our customisable research platform featuring the world’s most innovative, creative and effective campaigns and marketing ideas

Online education tool brings mathematics to life through Pixar animation

The Khan Academy, a not-for-profit educational organisation, is partnering with Pixar Animation Studios to show how important maths is when making great animated movies.

The two companies have collaborated to create Pixar in a Box, a free online curriculum that highlights the basic mathematical concepts behind the making of movies like Toy Story and Cars.

A series of video lessons, interactive exercises and activities demonstrate how Pixar artists use the principles that they learnt in school to solve design problems and create compelling scenes.

For example, one lesson shows how a field of grass was created for Brave by using parabolic arcs. Another teaches pupils how large swarms of robots in WALL.E were designed using combinatorics.

The course currently focusses on the importance of maths, but will be extended in the future to include science, computer science, arts, and humanities subjects.

An online documentary, below, shows how the lessons take into account every stage of the creative process.


Contagious Insight / 

As with all successful partnerships, this appears to have real advantages for everyone involved:

For the kids / This gives them a behind-the-scenes look into the inner workings of one of the most successful movie studios in history. As the success of books like Creativity Inc. show, Pixar’s reputation for content creation has piqued the interest of many fans, eager to find out exactly how the company ticks.

It also gives dry equations that kids usually learn in maths a bit of a cool-factor, and shows practical applications for the academic theories they spend so many hours in school learning. As Sal Khan, Founder and CEO of the Khan Academy, said: ‘Sparking student interest in math and other academic fields is a key part of [our mission], and we’re delighted to collaborate with Pixar to achieve this goal.’

For the Khan Academy / It potentially opens up the online education resource to a whole new audience – one that is leaving school education and considering what skills they would like to develop in the future.

For Pixar / It’s a smart, PR-worthy CSR exercise that helps to align the brand with education and learning. It also helps to get a new generation excited about STEAM subjects (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) – and getting them engaged in this mixture of creativity and science might just have a recruitment pay-off in the future.

Pixar in a Box



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