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Flatland: A Journey of Many Dimensions (DVD) Review by Donna Campos

Flat World Productions, LLC
1708 Guadalupe Street
Austin, TX 78701

Flatland is a 30-minute animated movie based on Edwin A. Abbott's classic novel, Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions, published in 1880. The book tells the story of geometric shapes living in a two-dimensional world. These shapes have to contend with the confusing idea of additional dimensions. Special features include star interviews, a discussion with Professor Thomas Banchoff, English and Spanish subtitles, and the complete text of the original novel. We reviewed the Special Educational Edition ($120), which includes a school site license and may be used in a classroom setting. The Educational Edition also includes teaching notes and four printable lessons. The Home Use version (available for $30) does not include the teaching notes, the printable lessons, or the rights for public viewing. However, the Home Use version should be adequate for most homeschooling families.

Designed for students capable of basic geometry skills, the movie is both entertaining and educational. Flatland brings relevance to mathematical concepts that can be difficult to understand. The concept of two-dimensional shapes interacting with three-dimensional mass is introduced in a way that will be understood by many students, regardless of age. The animation is excellent; I found myself trying to figure out how the eyes and mouth were flipping with the movement of the shape characters, which was completely irrelevant but certainly held my attention. The concepts are so woven into the storyline, children will not even realize they are learning.

We thoroughly enjoyed the discussion with Dr. Tom Banchoff, which offered fascinating manipulation of graphics. If your student is struggling with geometry, this movie will offer a new perspective. The printable lessons were especially helpful for our students. My 8-year-old was able to grasp some of the fairly difficult concepts with surprising understanding.

I would encourage parents to check out the original novel to fulfill their own curiosity before turning it over to their student. The novel has been described as a charming explanation of geometry, but with the charm we found some aspects of human nature some families may prefer to avoid. The granddaughter, "Hex", who is the curious motivation in the story, blows an indignant raspberry in disrespect when told to "remember what the Circle Priests say: 'A still tongue makes a happy life.' " She also completely disobeys the law when entering an off-limits area to reveal the truth about dimensionality, certainly a case of situational ethics. And even the loving grandmother encourages Hex to lie at one point. The story also touches upon certain social ills. For instance, certain jobs are assigned only to a particular type of shape, and societal placement is completely contingent on genetic processes. These things are presented negatively but may still need to be explained.

Our family really enjoyed Flatland. Our 16-year-old was mesmerized and verbalized "Wow" several times during the movie, which I found quite amusing. The storyline is easy to follow and will open discussion about far more than mathematical concepts. The discussion with Dr. Banchoff is enlightening and may encourage children into the field of mathematics. The visual presentation alone was enough for us to love the movie, and it will be watched for more than geometry concepts.

Product review by Donna Campos, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, November 2007