Who knew that The Simpsons animated TV show was full of mathematical moments? Read how British science writer Simon Singh learned that his impression of mathematically gags within the show was completely on target. This led to Singh’s book, The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets. If you’d like an introduction to Simpson’s mathematics and don’t have access to the book, Andrew Nestler’s online guide and other related resources are a great way to get started.
If you want to have your mind blown with the level and complexity of the mathematics in the Simpsons, take a look at Simon Singh’s talk to Google. You don’t have to watch the whole thing to get the sense of it, five minutes will do. But you might find yourself hooked!
If you’d rather smaller video doses, complete with Simpson clips, see the YouTube channel of “Mathologer” Burkard Polster, a mathematics professor at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. Scroll down a bit to find the Simpsons, or just explore. Here’s a sample.
Thinking about math in The Simpsons certainly provides novel ways to introduce a lesson, or perhaps to help students see math in unexpected places, but it also can provide inspiration for your students to think about how math could be embedded in other media. Could a formula or mathematical principle being studied be relevant to the latest action figure adventure? How about being integrated into a favorite television show? Think about your students creating a cartoon or writing a brief scenario in which the math they are studying is either part of the story line (as in the Mathologer video clip) or hidden in plain sight (as in the first example in Singh’s Google talk. If you want—and time allows—you might create videos as well. Either way, we’d love to hear the stories!