Math in Special Effects Lesson Plan


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Using video segments and web interactives from Get the Math, students engage in an exploration of mathematics, specifically reasoning and sense making, to solve real world problems and learn how special effects designers use math in their work. In this lesson, students focus on understanding the Big Ideas of Algebra: patterns, relationships, equivalence, and linearity; learn to use a variety of representations, including modeling with variables; build connections between numeric and algebraic expressions; and use what they have learned previously about number and operations, measurement, proportionality, and discrete mathematics as applications of algebra.  Methodology includes guided instruction, student-partner investigations, and communication of problem-solving strategies and solutions.

In the Introductory Activity, students view a video segment in which they learn how Jeremy Chernick, a designer at J & M Special Effects, uses math in his work  as he presents a mathematical challenge connected to a high-speed effect from a music video.  In Learning Activity 1, students solve the challenge that Jeremy posed in the video, which involves using algebraic concepts and reasoning to figure out the relationship between light intensity and distance from a light source in order to help fix an underexposed shot.  As students solve the problem, they have an opportunity to use an online simulation to find a solution.  Students summarize how they solved the problem, followed by a viewing of the strategies and solutions used by the Get the Math teams.  In Learning Activity 2, students try to solve additional interactive lighting (inverse relationship) challenges. In the Culminating Activity, students reflect upon and discuss their strategies and talk about the ways in which algebra can be applied in the world of special effects, lighting, and beyond.


Students will be able to:

  • Describe scenarios that require special effects technicians to use mathematics and algebraic reasoning in lighting and high-speed photography.
  • Identify a strategy and create a model for problem solving.
  • Recognize, describe, and represent inverse relationships using words, tables, numerical patterns, graphs, and/or equations.
  • Learn to recognize and interpret inverse relationships and exponential functions that arise in applications in terms of a context, such as light intensity.
  • Compare direct and inverse variation.
  • Solve real-life and mathematical problems involving the area of a circle.