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Original Essays | September 18, 2014 1 comment
On a hot July evening years ago, my Toyota Tercel overheated on a flat stretch of highway north of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. A steam geyser shot up from... Continue »
Flatlandby Thomas Banchoff
Since the premier, I have had the honor of introducing the film at the annual joint meeting of the Mathematical Association of America and the American Mathematical Society, where over 1200 participants attended a showing, and where many of them remained for a discussion of the possible uses of the film in classes at various levels. I personally have enjoyed showing the film to elementary and middle school students, as well as secondary school students and their teachers, and at the college level as well.
Let me describe my interaction with the creators of the film. Last spring, I got a call from Seth Caplan, who identified himself as the producer of this new film. He told me that he had contacted Steve Rasmussen, the president of Key Curriculum Press, about distribution questions, and that he had immediately suggested that I would be a good person for the consulting board they were in the process of forming. I immediately agreed to take part, and sometime after that, I received copies of a preliminary version of the film, without any music track and only rudimentary decoration, in particular without facial features on the Sphere. At the time I was teaching a First Year Seminar on "The Fourth Dimension" to a dozen freshmen at Brown University, and they were eager to make comments and suggestions as we watched the film in progress. Somehow our comments seemed to make a difference, as the creators of the film were dedicated to working further on the ending, and on some of the earlier scenes.
At the end of April, I went to Austin, Texas, to take part in the wedding of my younger daughter. I came a day early in order to participate in an interview, ultimately edited into the Extras on the DVD. The headquarters of the operation that was producing the film was not prepossessing. Basically it was one large room housing a number of pieces of computer equipment, and Dano Johnson seated at one of the consoles working on details of a scene. He explained how he worked to provide greater and greater elaboration of the main characters and also the background for the various scenes. Then I met Jeffrey Travis, listed as the director of the film, and we went to his home for the two-hour interview session (finally reduced to eight minutes). That was my last contact with the filmmakers until I saw the final finished version.
I should mention that I have been working on ancillary materials for use by teachers, in middle school, junior high and senior high schools, and by math educators. I have shown the film to groups of writers in text projects for secondary schools, and they are uniformly positive about the possible uses of the film and the materials in engaging students in geometric investigations. It is a great project, and I am very happy to be a part of it.
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Thomas Banchoff, a professor of mathematics at Brown University, is an authority on Edwin A. Abbott.