Movies are a great way of mixing up the routine of class. But while history, science and geography teachers have a wealth of options to choose from, entertaining math-themed video clips seem to be thin on the ground. Here’s a handful of animated math movies that your elementary students will find engaging and educational.
Donald in Mathmagic Land (1959)
Described as the mathematical counterpart to Fantasia, this 27-minute animation follows Donald Duck as he explores Mathmagic Land. Donald, initially believing math is for “eggheads,” soon changes his mind after discovering the link between mathematics and music, architecture, sport, nature and the human body. The film is best summarized
by its closing line, a quote from Galileo: “Mathematics is the alphabet with which God has written the universe.” The entire featurette is available for free onYouTube.
The Dot and the Line (1965)
In the one-dimensional universe of Lineland, a line falls in love with a dot. Finding the line dull and conventional, the dot is more taken with a chaotic squiggle. To win the dot over, the line travels through various geometric landscapes and learns to form angles and complex shapes. The film is 10 minutes long and contains no dialogue, so students can interject to identify the shapes and patterns the line forms on-screen. Written by Norton Juster, author of The Phantom Tollbooth (below). Available on YouTube.
The Phantom Tollbooth (1970)
When Milo passes through the mysterious phantom tollbooth, he finds himself in a world where numbers and letters are at war. His quest to rescue the princesses Rhyme and Reason leads him to Digitopolis, ruled by the Mathemagician, which can only by entered by answering a series of mathematical riddles posed by a Dodecahedron. Though it doesn’t focus solely on math, the film (and the book upon which it’s based) is a fun, didactic adventure in logic, reason and the importance of education.
“Homer3”, “Treehouse of Horror VI”, The Simpsons (1995)
Homer enters a three-dimensional realm after finding a mysterious portal in the Simpson house. While exploring the physical rules of this new dimension (which contains a variety of geometrical features), he tears a hole in the space-time continuum and enters our world. Warning: this is a short segment from a Halloween-themed Treehouse of Horror episode of The Simpsons, and the rest of the episode might be too scary for younger viewers (as well as containing the usual Simpsons humor and language). The relevant 4 minute clip can be found on YouTube.
Flatland: The Movie (2007)
In a world inhabited by two-dimensional shapes, discovery of a third dimension stirs rebellion. Ranging from one- to four-dimensional space, Flatland features a great deal of geometry (including a direct lesson by the main character on how powers in arithmetic relate to geometric dimensions) in a colorful, cartoonish setting. There were actually two animated film versions of Flatland released in 2007, but the 34 minute direct-to-video release is the more child-friendly version.
Nick Nedeljkovic is a freelance writer and blogger from Sydney. With a love of learning and more degrees than he can afford, he’s a passionate advocate for education in all its forms.