I can always tell when it’s back-to-school time... My morning drive becomes just *slightly* more congested: those extra school buses, new college students, and vacationers back from their time away certainly add up on the roads. For us here at Maplesoft it’s always a busy time as well, working with students and educators to get them ready for the new school year.

Part of what I do involves presenting webinars on a variety of topics, and recently I was quite excited to present a new webinar entitled Hollywood Math. This session was meant to inject a bit of levity into what can sometimes be a gray and dreary month by looking at some of the ways in which mathematics shows up in the movies and on TV. It also worked well as an introduction to Maple for both new users and those wanting to learn how to use the new document-style interface and tools such as the drawing canvas, 2-D math and context-menu calculations, code edit regions, embedded components, tables and other word-processing techniques, and using units in calculations.

A professor at Harvard has a lovely page devoted to Math in the Movies from which I garnered quite a bit of inspiration. One of his links is to an entertaining scene from In the Navy, an old Abbott and Costello film, in which it is “proven” by a bit of quick calculation (and more than a little sleight of hand) that multiplying 7 by 13 gives 28!

Slightly more well-known is the 1997 movie Good Will Hunting, in which the lead character, played by Matt Damon, works as a janitor at MIT, despite his genius-level intelligence and a great aptitude for mathematics. One memorable scene shows Will solving a blackboard problem in algebraic graph theory that was set as a challenge problem for one class of students. I got to dabble a bit in graph theory with this one, and get a better sense of what Maple’s GraphTheory package could do.

These are just a couple of the examples demonstrated; for those of you who were unable to attend, we’ve posted a recording of the webinar as well as the Maple document I used during my presentation. Hopefully it will be as entertaining to watch as it was for me to research!

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