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Mathematics Goes to the Movies

by Burkard Polster and Marty Ross


An Innocent Love (1982)

Harry Woodward (Doug McKeon) is a 14 year old maths student at University, replying to an ad of Molly Rush (Melissa Sue Anderson), a star volleyball player, to be her maths tutor.
He meets Molly and her boyfriend Dunc Withers (Rocky Bauer).
HARRY: i got a 4-0 in freshman math, 4-0 on the final. I’m getting 4-0’s in all my science courses, I’m in honours math. I’m studying astrophysics.
MOLLY: Astrophysics! (She walks away).Well, I tell you what, Harry. I’ll definitely think about it.
HARRY: I have the time. i can give you all the time you need.
DUNC: Listen, listen, listen Kid. Nobody’s got that much time. I mean she has trouble with the numbers on the Team jerseys. Know what I mean?

Harry is tutoring Molly. Molly shows him her working and Harry shakes his head.
HARRY: O.K. you have to learn how to differentiate polynomials, such as x squared plus two x. “Polynomial” meaning “many numbers”, like, uh, “polytechnic”.
MOLLY: Right. Polyglot, many languages. I understand that.
HARRY: Oh. O.K. The derivative of x equals 1. The derivative of x squared equals two x.
MOLLY: Sorry. I just don’t get it.
HARRY: Alright. Just just just right it down, copy what I say and just repeat it out loud. The derivative of x equals 1.
MOLLY: The derivative of x equals 1.
HARRY: The derivative of x squared equals two x.
MOLLY: The derivative of x squared equals two x.
They chat about Harry’s age.
MOLLY: O.K. The derivative of x cubed is … three, three x squared?
HARRY: That’s right. That’s it.
MOLLY: See what i mean? It’s so much easier. Is this the way you learned differentiation?
HARRY: Only I was seven years old.

Molly and Dunc are dining on a boat, on the way to watch an eclipse, and Harry comes over.
MOLLY: Harry, I I brought my math homework with me. You know, I finished the whole first half of the test. I just seem to be having trouble with the, the…diff… See, I can’t even say it!
HARRY: Differentiation?
DUNC: Excuse me. Molly, is this something that’s going to become a ritual with you? You’re gonna start bringing your math homework, even on the week-ends?
MOLLY: Especially on the week-ends.

Harry is tutoring Molly, with Dunc interrupting.
HARRY: What did you get for the last one?
MOLLY: Uh, that was number 5?
HARRY: Uh, yeah.
MOLLY: Uh, the cube root of three x plus 17?
HARRY: That’s right!
They ignore Dunc’s interruptions.
HARRY: Oh, O.K., when you take the exam, this is gonna be kind of a standard problem. Always shows up on the test.
MOLLY: Alright, go to it, Teacher.
HARRY: O.K.? Find the derivative of
MOLLY: Four x cubed.
HARRY: Minus three x squared.
MOLLY: Three x squared.
HARRY: Plus x.
MOLLY: Plus x.
Dunc talks to Harry while Molly works on the problem.
MOLLY: Dunc, could you give us a break? (Dunc leaves). Twelve x squared minus six x plus 1?
HARRY: Yeah!
MOLLY: That’s it?
HARRY: That’s it. Molly kisses Harry on the cheek.

Dunc is introducing Harry to rowing.
DUNC: O.K. Harry. Now what do you know about this?
HARRY: Well, I’ve read books and articles about the kinetic action of boat hulls through water. In fact there’s a formula. It’s a resistance formula.

Harry is walking Molly to her exam.
HARRY: Find the different, differentiation problems first. That’s your strongest area. (As they talk, Harry renigs on a plan of Dunc’s to give Molly the wrong rule). Don’t forget to start with the differentiation problems. And remember the formula for x to the n: n x to the n minus 1.
MOLLY: Wait a minute, Harry, I thought you said…
HARRY: n x to the n minus 1!