Issue 18 - Feb 2006
ITV3 drama 'Numb3rs' is a new American Crime drama about a high ranking FBI agent and his brother (a Professor of Applied mathematics) who use maths to solve crime. (As discussed in this issue's article 'We've Got Your Number')
One recent episode, "Double Down," for instance, dealt with the casino card game blackjack and an analysis of the process used by a mechanical card shuffler to deal cards in random order. Accompanying activity sheets covered random sequences, blackjack probabilities, perfect shuffles, and time series analysis.
The series aims for mathematical correctness and scientific accuracy, says Andrew Black, who is a researcher and writer for the show. Black described his role at a session on "Numb3rs" at the Joint mathematics Meetings, held earlier this month in San Antonio, Texas.
It's takes about 2 months to go from idea to final script, Black says.
Among Black's responsibilities is the preparation of the maths synopsis for each episode that goes to the teacher writing teams. He even sometimes distributes maths packets to the actors, providing little tutorials about some of the maths concepts at the heart of certain episodes. The actors, however, may not always read the material, Black admits.
Nonetheless, the actors are becoming more comfortable with the mathematical underpinnings of their show. David Krumholtz, who stars as super mathematician Charlie Eppes, for example, now writes mathematical equations on the blackboard himself. He no longer needs a stand-in or "hand double" to do the job for him.
Viewers in The States also get an educational component. Each Monday before a new episode airs, maths teachers in America can obtain question and activity sheets based on mathematical ideas featured in the upcoming episode of "Numb3rs".
The educational component is the result of a partnership involving Texas Instruments, the National Council of Teachers of mathematics, CBS, and Paramount. For each show, three writing teams receive a brief synopsis of where maths is being used in an upcoming episode. The teams then have about 2 weeks to prepare question sheets suitable for high school students.
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