Have you used Pixar in a Box?

Khan Academy and Pixar partnered for a series of videos and exercises called Pixar in a Box. I haven’t heard any stories of student use from the field so I’m asking for those here.

Have you used Pixar in a Box with your students? Which grades? Which class? How did it go? Thanks!


  1. Reply

    I used Pixar in a Box with my 11/12th graders in Applied Math. This course is geared towards students needing a third math credit to graduate high school. Overall, the program was just “okay.” Students found some parts way too easy and other parts too hard. Their biggest complaint was the structure of the questions they had to answer. The Khan Academy “style.” They became very frustrated when they would answer 4 questions correctly and mistype something on question 5 and have to restart. This made many of my students shut right down. They liked most of the interactives. After about 5 lessons I asked students to rate the program on a scale from 1-5. Many 3’s and 2’s. Some 1’s and some 4’s. Their response to it was similar to mine and I decided to cut the unit short.

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    @Dan, I hope we find more teachers reporting out on using PIAB because I am planning on implementing it it my classroom soon. Like @Tim, I also teach an applied mathematics course for seniors. I am interested in comparing notes about what was successful and what needed scaffolding or reworking.

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    @Mollie, as you can see, there is a gaping hole where there ought to be a pile of classroom testimony about PIAB. I hope you’ll fill the gap with your own commentary.

    I’m particularly interested in the ramp in difficulty. Were students able to complete all of the modules? Were some too difficult?

    Also: do these skills transfer? Did students do well on standard measures of math proficiency after working on PIAB?

    Also: did they seem more motivated? Was this math more interesting on account of its career application?

    Curious minds want to know!

  4. Ryan McLaughlin

    December 4, 2015 - 11:52 am -

    The following is pure student voice (verbatum from my Grade 6 class). We’re a k-8 school based in Oakville, Ontario, Canada. My students were given two weeks to play around with the program. I don’t have anything quantitative to report, but I wanted to hear what they had to say. I was really hoping for one of them to comment on the algebra piece as we had just finished working through a recent unit. Their takeaway was to begin to recognize algebraic generalizations. I was happy to see that one boy made the connection to the real world in this program (see testimonial below).

    Conceptual reasoning aside, my overarching goal was to help my students to make more mathematical connections to the real world. They have a solid grasp on the need for conceptual understanding, but the initial ‘cool’ factor is what made this interesting. They’ve seen the films, but were genuinely interested in the all of the ‘Hows’ associated with the math. A lot of “What’s the point?” questions were answered. They were already a motivated group; this was simply a nice extension of their learning!

    Boy 1: “I think the mathematics that shows up in Pixar in a box is good for learning. It is sometimes hard but sometimes easy and the videos helps me learn a lot. I am learning about crowds and it teaches me how to get the number of robots you can make with a amount of bodies, heads, and arms. (Teaches me how to multiply things when I need to and how). Anyway I think Pixar in a box really helps me learn a lot of things like how to make a movie and how to multiply to get the answer.”

    Girl 1: “I really enjoy the mathematics and lesson about animations! I think it is really fun and can teach you many things (although) the instructions and stuff were a bit confusing, and (for) younger kids it would (be) really really confusing so maybe they should have different lessons for different ages if they don’t already!”

    Girl 2: “Pixar In a Box is (a) great way to learn behind the characters of Pixar movies. I worked on animation and I think that the mathematics are fantastic! I learned that adding different details like to make a ball bounce such as making the ball wider when it is on the ground. It looks more realistic when the ball is squished rather than looking the same during the whole bounce. It is a great way to enrich your mind.”

    Boy 2: “I think that Pixar In a Box is very educational. I also like how it involves mathematics and the arts for all ages. I think a lot of people would like pixar in a box because it help kids learn but is also really fun!”

    Boy 3: “Pixar in a box is a great website because you learn math at the same time as learning how to make stop animation movies and it is fun for parents and kids.”

    Girl 3: “The mathematics in Pixar in a box is cool, because in the animations you have to drop the dot under the number it says, there’s also 2 columns, one underneath for making the ball that you’re moving squish so it looks more realistic. This is a great website, because it incorporates math, but it’s so fun for kids to use/see how Pixar makes their movies.”

    Boy 4: “I think Pixar in a box is really great for algebra. Especially rendering because it teaches really intense algebra and tells that there is algebra in making movies.”

    Boy 5: “I think that pixar in a box was a great idea. I think this because it incorporate math and design to make a great website. I think it is a great website because it help kids or adults learn math and at the same time they can learn how their favorite movie was created. Math can always be fun!”

  5. Reply

    I just finished my most important examinations of my high school, that means my time learning there already ended. Throughout my years of learning in school, I never really like math because it’s too complex for me and I never see what I call patterns in math like I see in other subjects. I also always ask myself why do I need to learn this? it’s not important and I don’t see adults really use it and even if they use it it looks different compare to what I learn. But by watching this, it actually sparks a bit of my interest in math. I love animations, they are so dear to me, I never get sick of it. They also make beautiful memory during my childhood, and now I can see that math plays an important role in animations.

  6. Reply

    We used the environmental modeling of a blade of grass in geometry. I played the video clips, but we modeled the blades of grass in Geogebra instead of completing the tasks they provided. The kids had a lot of fun with it and we were able to animate the blade of grass, create a tool that recreated it and essentially paste a field of grass.

    The subdivision concept covered in the character modeling portion has a lot of potential as well. We invested some time, but weren’t able to make that process clean in Geogebra.

  7. Reply

    I just taught a “math in the movies” class for the past week. The class consisted of mostly freshmen and sophomores and a few juniors and seniors. My students loved working through the videos. I let them work with a partner which encouraged a lot of discussion about the activities. Some students found PIAB to be difficult in some activities and really easy in others. They seemed to enjoy character modeling and animation the best!

  8. Reply

    My school, Horace Mann School for the Deaf in Boston, used Pixar in a Box content at both the middle and high school level this fall. The middle school classes did the online activities with crowds and combinatorics, as well as the hands-on project at the end of the unit. My high school classes did work in environmental modeling, character modeling, and crowds preceding a trip to the Boston Museum of Science to see the Pixar exhibit.
    The students had a good time with the activities and we were particularly captivated by the video footage from Pixar. We spent time pausing the videos from the Pixar staff interviews to focus on the computer screens to see what the code looked like and how much work went into seemingly insignificant details. They were also captivated with how the staff, Fran Kalal for example, were able to combine their knowledge of math and other hobbies into a amazing careers.

  9. Reply

    I want to, but it touches on Math that our students haven’t covered yet. I teach Elementary age students, but these lessons seem geared toward higher grade levels. Was it created with specific grade levels in mind?

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