media release

Small Number’s adventures continue in math movie 2

September 19, 2011

Veselin Jungic, 778.822.3340 (cell), (Burnaby resident)
Carol Thorbes, PAMR, 778.782.3035,

A creative crew led by Simon Fraser University math lecturer Veselin Jungic has created its second video aimed at transforming math into a star in the eyes of kindergarten to high school Aboriginal youth.

Mathematics and suspense don’t often come together to equal movie success. But that’s what Veselin and his partners hope will become of Small Number Counts to 100 and its newly minted sequel Small Number and the Old Canoe.

The two are a part of a series of six, less than four-minute-long animation videos envisioned by Jungic and the other creators to help drive up B.C. Aboriginals’ completion rate of Grade 12 math.

Currently, only two per cent of B.C. Aboriginals complete Grade 12 math, compared to 25 per cent of B.C.’s population as a whole. 

Voiced in English and various Aboriginal languages, the videos intertwine story telling, drama and cultural references to spin suspenseful tales about Small Number, a five-year old boy, discovering math. 

“To underline the universality of mathematics, Small Number and the plots of our stories are not attached to a particular time and space,” explains Jungic, a co-writer and the producer of the videos.

“In the first story, Small Number lives in a tipi settlement somewhere in the plains. In the second story, he lives by a body of water, a river or a sea. Mathematics is present throughout the story with the hope that this experience will inspire our kindergarten-aged viewers to see math around them in their everyday lives.”

The sounds of nature, water, music and the voice of narrator Dexter Anakson of the Cree nation, who plays Small Number’s role, entice viewers to help the boy to solve two mysteries.

They are what makes a stone skip the farthest across water and how many of Small Number’s relatives were involved in making a 100-year-old canoe he discovers?

“This video’s math suspense introduces our young audience at an intuitive level to the concept of a function and the essence of the principle of inclusion-exclusion as a counting technique. We also aim to cultivate our audience’s appreciation that to understand a math question one needs to read or watch a problem more than once,” says Jungic.

The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), SFU’s Interdisciplinary Research in the Mathematical and Computational Sciences (IRMACS) Centre and the Pacific Institute for the Mathematical Sciences (PIMS) are funding this project.

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