Math, Literature, and Movies

HON 498 – Dr. Charles Rocca

Modes of Inquiry: Textual Analysis, Scientific and Mathematical Analysis, Artistic Creation and Analysis, Historical, Social and Cultural Analysis

Course Description:

In this course, we will explore the ways in which mathematics has been represented in literature and in movies. This includes looking at mathematics and its use (and possible abuse) by creative artists. Ultimately, students will develop their own work of mathematical fiction.

Automathography: You will start the semester by writing a summary of your own experiences with mathematics. What math have you taken over the course of your lifetime? What did you like? What didn’t you like?

“Reading” Journal: As you read through the stories of mathematics and mathematicians, you need to write down your thoughts on what you have read. What surprised you? Did the reading stir up any memories or feelings from your own life? Was there anything in the story that struck you as particularly significant?

Group Work Write Ups: You will spend most days, after a hopefully brief introduction, working in groups to understand some aspect of mathematics either from or related to what you are reading. The group work may be based directly on the readings for the class or on supplementary materials after some instruction. After each class, it is the responsibility of each group to write a reflection on what they did that day. Each student needs to take at least one turn writing a reflection. The reflection must include examples of the mathematics you discussed and the group's thoughts. You must write about the mathematics with as much precision and clarity as you would employ in any other piece of writing.

Biography: Many of our readings, even some of the fictional ones, involve real mathematicians. Pick a mathematician to research. You can not pick any of the mathematicians who were central characters in the readings or movies, but you can certainly pick an ancillary character. You might also want to look toward your final project; researching the life and works of a mathematician who could be a part of your story is a good way to add depth and realism to your work.

Final Project: For your culminating experience in this class, you will work with a group to create a work of mathematical fiction and present it to the class. You can write a short illustrated story (comic), or a one or two scene play or movie. Whatever you create needs to be thoroughly researched and include real, though perhaps not deep, mathematics. You will be evaluated on how well you tell your story, the humanity of your characters, and how accurately you portray your mathematics. You will also write a reflection on the choices you made and why you made them.