So, it’s Christmas Day, at 4:55 am, and I just watched the newest Disney Pixar movie Soul. Yes, I’m not a child staying up waiting for Santa. I am a grown man, who stayed up to watch a PG movie… That sounded a lot better in my head. Still, being the math lover that I am, I was amazed at the amount of math painted behind the foreground of purpose and meaning. In fact, the message of the movie, Soul, is one that can give the viewer what he or she needs to be successful in math.
If you haven’t seen it yet, and you plan on doing so, great! Here’s the synopsis of the movie without giving away any crazy spoilers:
Joe Gardner is a part-time middle school music teacher, who has a passion for jazz music. However, when he’s finally given an opportunity to accomplish his dream, he dies and tries everything to get back to his life. He teams up with an unborn soul to help her find some reason for living.
This is the purest plot of the movie, that I can give you. There are tons of nods to Jazz, Black American Barber shops, Subway stations, and a whole lot of purpose and passion throughout the characters who we meet since the beginning of the movie! Now, that you have the Spoiler-Free synopsis, you are permitted to skip to the conclusion which has the sub-heading: How Watching the Disney Pixar Movie, “Soul”, Can Make You Better At Math. This way you bypass the spoilers mentioned in the next parts.
As I mentioned before, Joe Gardner is a middle school music teacher. More importantly, it seems like he’s a band teacher. I remember those days. No I wasn’t in band, but I definitely remember their performances. In fact, the first second into the movie, you get the opportunity to hear the poetic sound of a middle school band, and in my opinion, it’s one of the worst inventions ever! I understand we all have to start somewhere, but that has to be one of the hardest teaching jobs.
Also in this beginning scene of the movie, we see a girl stand up playing her trombone, while the other students, who are less passionate about the band, snicker and laugh at her. Here, Joe explains the day he got his passion for playing jazz.
He’s offered a full time teaching job shortly after, but he’s not too excited about it. He is, however, excited when a former student calls him up and invites him to perform with a big shot jazz musician. He’s so enthralled that he doesn’t watch where he’s going and he dies.
He meets an unborn soul named 22. She’s thousands of years old, who was mentored by some of the greatest souls throughout history. See, unborn souls have to receive a spark, before they can be born into the world, and mentors help unborn souls figure that out. 22, however, has no desire to be born, and Joe can’t return to his body without 22’s spark.
Joe assumes that this spark is a person’s purpose. He believes it’s their passion or reason for living. So, he tries everything he can to find 22’s purpose.
How Watching the Disney Pixar Movie, “Soul”, Can Make You Better At Math
See, when I decided to stay up and watch this movie, I wanted to find the math in the movie. I wanted to use my eye for math to piece things together and find the beautifully painted background of math in the foreground of purpose. In other words, I was trying to find my passion in a movie that is about the exact opposite of finding passion.
Yes, there’s math in the movie. In fact, it’s 17 minutes into it. I actually was going to write about that one piece of math…
Then, I realized something…
This website is not about math. This website is mathTHRIVE. It’s about thriving in math. I am a math tutor, yes, but the goal is not to help you learn a few math concepts you’re having trouble with. My goal is not to even force you to have math as a passion.
My goal for my students is for them to realize that they can do anything, and math should not be some big boulder blocking their path. We have the power to enjoy and find peace in things we may not be passionate about. You only truly thrive in something you do not fear.
Soul is about finding your purpose, but moreso it is about what one finds peace and enjoyment in.
“That’s all well and good,” I hear you say. “But how does watching Soul make me better at math?”
Because, I’m not only a math tutor. I’m a math teacher. I have taught over 1,000 students in my lifetime. All of them had different lives, personalities, interests, and backgrounds. I’ve seen students who are good at math fail and people who weren’t good at math pass. I’ve seen students cry because of the difficulty and students sleep because they weren’t being challenged.
I’ve seen students with special needs pass. I’ve seen students who didn’t understand me, because they spoke a different language succeed.
The movie, Soul shows a clear message that your passion is a beautiful thing to have, but it can limit you. If not careful, it can cause you to believe it’s the only thing you can ever do well.
In life, you hear people tell you you’re not good enough. You’re average. You’re below average. You’ll never do this well or that well. Eventually, you start telling yourself that you’re not good enough at this or that. You tell yourself you’re only good at one thing and that defines you.
The movie Soul shows you that you can spend your whole life chasing your passion while ignoring other things you could have enjoyed.
At the end of the day, life is worth living, not because you found your purpose. Life is worth living because life is full of things we can find enjoyment in.
You can pass math despite being interested in sports. You can pass math despite English being your favorite subject. You can pass math despite what people say about you. This society is so filled with the notion of following your dreams that it doesn’t realize how it’s tearing you down from the things you found the most difficult.
You can be better in math, because you are not limited. You are not a line. A line is one dimensional. You are more. You can be more. Don’t assume that those interested in engineering are the only ones who can do well in math. You can too.
All you have to do is think beyond your passion to find your purpose.
Have a Blessed Christmas