Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Numb3rz: Comments from a SPED Math Teacher

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I have heard of the show Numb3rs before but I have not really followed the series. Honestly, because I didn’t think Math alone can solve a crime. After watching one episode of Numb3rz I realized that its not that Math can solve everything in a crime but rather the use of Math is elemental in solving these FBI crimes.


The episode that I watched started with one lady trying to withdraw from her ATM machine. Unbeknownst to others she is actually a kidnap victim. She tried to run away from her captors by eluding them to save her life. Unfortunately, one of her captors shot her and she died in the middle of the road in broad daylight. Expectedly, an investigation is done after bystanders witnessed this henious crime. The FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) then realized that this is not an isolated incident but rather there has been a series of kidnappings that target particularly women and all of them were asked to withdraw a certain amount of money from their ATM machines. If they fail to comply, they will be killed but there were lucky ones who lived to tell their horrible tales. The FBI devised a plan to infiltrate this scrupulous operation by interpreting the kidnapping behavior of this criminal group. Using math, they were able to predict the most probable location this group will attack next; the kind of person they are going to attack; and the time and the exact street the next victim will be kidnapped. This is the part that was not very clear to me but apparently the group is not interested that much with the money they get from the victims because the mastermind of this crime has a grander scheme in his sleeves. Apparently, the person who orchestrated this crime has found a glitch in the ATM system that will grant him access to get a hold of millions (or even billions I did not hear that much) of dollars.

The episode is to be continued and so I don’t know how exactly Math will come into play to solve the crime and I actually felt disappointed that it wasn’t like a CSI or an NCIS episode where you usually see the ending of a crime until it was solved. If the producers were trying to get my attention and entice me in watching the series then it did the trick because it was a cliffhanger. So I am a little bit disappointed after watching this particular episode and at the same time excited to know what happens next.

I also felt that I haven’t really seen how math has been fully used to solve the crime. For me, interpreting the criminals’ behavior touches more in psychologically but I guess predicting the time and place for the criminals’ next attack was when I saw math being used in a practical way. However, its not the kind of math I guess people are led to think where someone will actually write long math equations because that is the idea that crossed my mind when I see the commercials for this series. It worked to the series advantage though that my impression of the commercial is wrong because now I think the show has become more realistic to me. Still, I can’t help to think that it’s such a nerdy show with too many math jargons. I wish they have done something about it to make it more palatable to mainstream television viewers but it maybe too late now since the series has ended.

All in all, it gives math a good reputation to be used in solving FBI crimes. It helps people to think that mathematicians are not just cooped up in their labs (like Eistein) or have imaginary friends (like Nash) but that they can have cool jobs ala James Bond as an FBI agent. That it’s cool to be a mathematician.

Source: Numb3rz Trailer (video) retrieved from Youtube

What do you think about Numb3rz? What is your favorite episode? Care to share them in the comments below:

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