Dr. Sarah's Futurama Math: Mathematics in the Year 3000

Futurama is a rare exception in broadcast television - a satirical science fiction cartoon that aims its jokes squarely at the top of the brow. Futurama is especially fun to watch because math, science, or programming references seem to appear in almost every episode. For example, Ken Keeler, who has a Ph.D. in applied mathematics from Harvard University, discussed his transition from mathematics to comedy writing during a tight job market in an interview with gotfuturama.com. When he was asked whether his education paid off, he responded: "Well, sure. For example, Bender's serial number is 1729, a historically significant integer to mathematicians everywhere; that "joke" alone is worth six years of grad school, I'd say." In an interview with frontwheeldrive, Executive Producer David X. Cohen, who has a master's degree in computer science from UC Berkeley, explains: "We wanted to get in as much science as possible where it didn't clog up the gears of the story... Our hope is that, although such material will fly by most people unnoticed, it might make die-hard fans of the people who do appreciate it."

1ACV11 (Mars University)

Mathematics on Futurama

As listed on the DVD extras for the 20th Century Fox Futurama movie Bender's Big Score: "Mind-bending Futurama math lecture by Professor Sarah Greenwald (Teachers: use it for exciting and educational classroom viewing!)" Also, if you watch the movie itself, not just the interactive lecture in the DVD extras, then we think you will be pleasantly surprised. The DVD was released on November 27, 2007, and the movie (but not the interactive lecture) later appeared as episodes on the Comedy Central cable network in 2008.

Popular Culture in Teaching, Scholarship, and Outreach: The Simpsons and Futurama in Mathematics Education: A Spectrum of Work in Mathematical Sciences Departments (eds. Jacqueline Dewar, Pao-sheng Hsu, and Harriet Pollatsek). Springer's Association for Women in Mathematics Series. Vol. 7, 2017.

Klein's Beer: Futurama Comedy and Writers in the Classroom, PRIMUS, Volume XVII, Number 1, March 2007, pp. 52-66.

Summary of Math-Club whose audience included a number of Simpsons and Futurama writers, April 6, 2005

Futurama πk - Mathematics in the Year 3000, co-written with Tom Georgoulias, Raleigh, NC, and Marc Wichterich, RWTH Aachen University, Germany,   Math Horizons, Volume 11, Number 4, April 2004, pp. 12-15.

Text transcript of the Joint Mathematics Meetings talk in Phoenix, AZ, Friday, January 9, 2004, 10:45-10:55am

Also see simpsonsmath.com for mathematics on The Simpsons

Futurama Writers

The Calculus of Comedy: Math in The Simpsons, Futurama, and The Big Bang Theory October 25, 2017

A Futurama Math Interview with Dr. Ken Keeler February 29, 2008

A Futurama Math Conversation with Dr. Jeff Westbrook August 25, 2005

A Futurama Math Conversation with David X. Cohen April 6, 2005

Mathematical Backgrounds of Futurama Writers

See also The Calculus of Comedy: Math in The Simpsons, Futurama, and The Big Bang Theory, Institute for Pure and Applied Mathematics, UCLA October 25, 2017, a panel I moderated with panelists J. Stewart Burns, David X. Cohen, Al Jean, Eric Kaplan, Ken Keeler, and Jeff Westbrook.

Futurama Worksheets

Shape of the Universe activity sheet and its use within a segment on the Geometry of the Earth and Universe. Futurama is also mentioned in a related theme essay, for the 2005 Mathematics Awareness Month on the mathematics of the cosmos.

Sum of Two Cubes activity sheet

Greenwaldian theorem activity sheet

Klein's Beer: Futurama Comedy and Writers in the Classroom, PRIMUS, Volume XVII, Number 1, March 2007, pp. 52-66.

Watching Episodes of Futurama

In many regions of the US, repeats of Futurama air regularly.

Information on the DVD box sets of Futurama can be found at the official Fox site.

3ACV02 (Parasite's Lost)

Dr. Sarah J. Greenwald, Appalachian State University

Bender's Big Score: Greenwaldian Theorem

2ACV07 (Put Your Head on my Shoulder)
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3ACV12 (The Route of All Evil)