Monday, 31 August 2015

Pixar in a Box - Learn How Maths is Used in Animated Movies

Khan Academy have recently released Pixar in a Box, a collaboration with Pixar which teaches kids and teens how mathematics is used in making animated movies. This is a fabulous free resource. I took a look at it and found myself working through it and showing my kids. 

There are videos and interactive lessons suitable for a range of ages starting with primary school children but with some really in-depth material for high school pupils. The course is extremely engaging, partly because the content is drawn from movies that the kids will be familiar with such as Brave, Toy Story, Monsters University, Cars and Wall-E and partly because of the excellent presenters: Tony deRose of Pixar, and several of his colleagues. 

Here's the introductory video that explains the concept:

When I was a kid I loved maths, but I had no idea what you could do with it. I remember Accountant and Quantity Surveyor coming up as recommended careers and neither of them were very appealing. I would have loved a course like this. 

Pixar in a Box combines entertaining and informative videos, interactive online activities and quiz questions and projects to do away from the computer. You get to learn about how the blades of grass in Brave were animated, how Mike Wozowski was rendered in Monsters University, how combinatorics was used for Wall-E robot crowds and how scenes were set up for Toy Story. 

I'm happy to see that one of the activities is making string art parabolas. I remember spending hours doing that with a wooden board, nails, and coloured thread as a child. I was reminded of this when we saw Johnny Ball recently and will definitely be doing this with my kids.

Tony deRose is fantastic in the videos. As well as explaining the maths he also shares how he got into computer graphics and also the crazy and fun projects that he and his family make each year for their local Maker Faire. DeRose is also joined by other women and men who work at Pixar who also do a great job of explaining their subject matter.

There are several 'Getting to Know' videos with the course which are really good for young people who might be interested in a career in computer graphics.

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