Pixar, Khan Academy Partner to Connect Math with Animation

Working with Pixar lets Khan Academy give students a behind-the-scenes look at how animated movies are made and how filmmakers use math to solve creative challenges in their daily work.

by / September 15, 2015
Pixar in a Box

Kids today don't know how good they have it. On August 27, Khan Academy launched Pixar in a Box, the online education platform's newest partner-driven course. Using resources provided by the animation company responsible for Toy Story, WALL-E and Up, Khan Academy students can learn free of charge how to create swarms of robots, model environments, use weighted averages to create characters and connect trigonometry with the animated worlds they've seen on screen.

Learning and experiencing new things is one of the best things about being human, but it wasn't until fairly recently that students around the world had free access to learning materials so closely integrated with things they are interested in. After just a few weeks, Pixar in a Box is already proving to be a popular course, Khan Academy communications associate Isaac Durand said via email.

"Over 300,000 people have visited the site so far, which is about 35,000 people per day," Durand wrote. "We’ve also received a ton of positive feedback from students and teachers."

One such piece of positive feedback came from an anonymous teacher: "Our students might have gaps in their understanding, but they are bright, and unstoppable when motivated. Pixar in a Box is motivating many of them to grapple with complicated math, but beyond that it's helping them see that academics is the muscle and power behind art. They can see the connection between math and art, as well as the importance of understanding both."

Pixar in a Box joins Khan Academy partners like the Museum of Modern Art, the American Museum of Natural History, the Stanford School of Medicine, basketball player LeBron James, the All-Star Orchestra and NASA. Khan Academy's media-rich content makes lessons clear, while partners provide unique content that gets students interested in learning.

"Collaborating with other organizations allows us to offer specialized content," Durand wrote. "In this case, for example, working with Pixar made it possible for us to give students a behind-the-scenes look at how animated movies are made and how filmmakers use math to solve creative challenges in their daily work. These lessons give students a new way to engage with math concepts, and we couldn’t have created them without Pixar."

According to Khan Academy, more than 1 million teachers have created accounts on their website. Some suggest the website as a source of supplemental content, while others teach directly from the website in the classroom.

"For years, we’ve heard from teachers at every grade level interested in creating animation-based curricula,” said Elyse Klaidman, director of Pixar University and Archives, in a press release. “We’ve wanted to provide free online resources for them, and Pixar in a Box makes that dream a reality. We hope that it not only gives students a behind-the-scenes look at how our movies are made but also gets them excited about STEAM [science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics] concepts.”

Colin Wood former staff writer

Colin wrote for Government Technology from 2010 through most of 2016.

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