"Life by the Numbers," a PBS documentary

WQED Pittsburgh
4802 Fifth Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15213
phone: 800-876-1316 or 412-622-1300
FAX: 412-622-1488

WQED Pittsburgh is producing a national PBS series called, LIFE BY THE NUMBERS. This seven-part series takes viewers around the world -- revealing exciting, innovative careers involving everyday people using key mathematical concepts. Topics include art, nature, education, science, technology, sports, and probability.

According to a 1993 study headed by the Department of Education, "nearly half of all Americans can't perform simple arithmetic tasks." LIFE BY THE NUMBERS will attempt to explore some of the reasons for math anxieties; dispel myths, and introduce parents, teachers and students to the beauty of math in the world around them.


SHOW #1: New Age
Contrary to popular belief, mathematics is exciting, imaginative, and a bigger part of our lives than most of us realize. In fact, as we move into the 21st Century, we're moving into a new era: the information age. And many rightly point out that this age is being driven by mathematics. Fantastic technologies, like movies-on-demand, virtual reality, the internet, and digital agents owe their existence to mathematics. Mathematics is changing the way people do business as they rely more and more on things like "data mining" and mathematical profiles of their customers. Some economists even believe that mathematics is behind a new world order where knowledge based -- mathematically literate -- economies will reign supreme.

SHOW #2: Chances of a Lifetime
We all use mathematics to make sense of our lives. Opinion polls tell us what the country is thinking about welfare reform, general happiness, and religious beliefs. We rely on probability to gauge chance and risk. Statistics can help us make predictions about everything from the weather to the roulette wheel, new medical cures and even baseball strategy.

SHOW #3: Seeing is Believing
When we go to the movies these days to see special effects, we're paying to see mathematics in action. The first special effects ever created -- real dimensional Renaissance paintings -- also owe their existence to mathematics. Mathematics has become one of the greatest tools for visualizing. From IMAX films to modern art and virtual reality, mathematics helps us define space and present our visions to the world.

SHOW #4: Patterns of Nature
Why do zebras have stripes instead of spots? Can grasshoppers grow to the size of dinosaurs? How simple ropes and strings -- like those you might find in your garage -- helping scientists understand viruses? Mathematics, believe it or not, is a brand new tool to biologists and by using mathematics, scientists are uncovering some amazing things.

SHOW #5: Shape of the World
As we travel from place to place, develop strategies during times of war, and study unidentified territories in outer space, we use many different maps to understand our world. Scientists use a global positioning system (GPS) to track aircrafts and ships at sea. The United States Military uses a global positioning system and the Oakland, California Parks Department uses a geographic information system to help prevent fires.

SHOW #6: The Numbers Game
When you're at home watching the Olympics in your living room, do you ever think about math and it's relationship to sports? Mathematics is used to create winning strategies, design equipment that maximizes various impacts, to understand mental training for competition and to improve training methods and athletic movements. Whether we realize it or not, without mathematics sports and games of chance would cease to exist.

SHOW #7: Making a Difference
In showing examples of dynamic and innovative initiatives, and through meeting teachers, students, and educators who are truly "making a difference," we hope to generate in our viewers a positive and exciting perspective on mathematics education and the math reform movement.

"Making a Difference" explores a variety of programs including: The Interactive Mathematics Program in Philadelphia; and gender and under-represented populations featuring the TERC Closing the Gap: Math Clubs for Boys and Girls Project in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. Technology in the classroom and areas of teacher education and professional development are explored through the Exploratorium -- a teacher training facility in San Francisco, California. The importance of parental involvement and community outreach initiatives are illustrated through the Family Math Program in San Fernando Valley, California.

last modified July 1997
© Copyright 1997 TERC, All Rights Reserved.