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Saturday, May 31, 2008


We’ve moved on to the “7-11 Non-Fiction” category, and NHK/Japan served up a tasty post-lunch treat in “Mathematica II,” which finds engaging graphic ways to explain math problems. The show appears to be from the same team that created “Pythagora Switch” a few years ago, a pre-school pre-math series that used visuals like a man standing first next to children and then next to a volleyball team to show how someone can be (relatively) big and small at the same time.

None of the elements of “Mathematica” is particularly expensive; its charm lies in simplicity, humor and clarity. In the submitted episode, student chefs were given the task of figuring out which was bigger, a round cake or a square one of identical circumference. After various guesses, the chefs learned to “square the circle,” first measuring with finer and finer units (aided by clay animated cubic “Rockafellas,” each of which can break into eight “Rockakiddies”), then arranging fine slices from the round cake to approximate a square.

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