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Helping Young Animation Lovers Appreciate Math; and Vice Versa

Here at DreamBox, in our blog and in our monthly parent updates, we talk a lot about the importance of relating math to everyday activities with our kids. My own son has a gift for art and is especially interested in animation. (And while his math test scores are high he’s never been especially motivated to focus on math.) But a memorable way to help kids understand the connection between learning math concepts and something they enjoy in the real world is to ask them what their favorite animated movie is. The animated movies that younger kids love can be a good jumping off point for helping them understand the unlimited possibilities of learning math.

If your child loved Finding Nemo or Toy Story, this Science Daily article might be a good read. Not all kids grow up with a love of math like Tony DeRose, a computer scientist at Pixar Animation Studios. He put the algebra and trigonometry he learned in high school to good use when he realized that “without mathematics, we wouldn’t have these visually rich environments, and visually rich characters.” The article includes a video clip of an interview with Tony talking about the connection between animation and math. You’ll also find a link to an article about the computer scientists who won an Oscar for developing the fluid simulation used in animated movies like Pirates of the Caribbean.

Or take a look at this PBS Teachers site that suggests ways to help students use measuring, multiplication, division, and fractions to understanding what motion picture film is and how it is used.

But we know that the best way to get kids interested in high school math is to make sure they’re engaged with math from the very beginning of school. And as a mother of an artist, in an environment where budget cuts have virtually eliminated art education from public school education, I was pleased to find someone like Wendy Jackson Hall. She was an animation artist and educator Seattle who used creative media like animation as a learning tool to help teach other subjects (and she introduced my son to stop-motion animation).

Relating Math Learning to Everyday Activities

In this terrific Stop Motion Works article, Wendy talks about teaching kids how to make flip books to relate math and aesthetics – with specifics for kids in grades 1 through 6. Helping children understand that 24 frames are combined to create one second of animation helps build comprehension of multiplication, division and fractions. And relating this to aesthetic principles of design, composition, contrast, and visual symbols, helps kids make the connection between the seemingly disparate worlds of math and art.

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