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STEAM Movie Spotlight: A Beautiful Mind

By Rital Miler & Joslyn Stamp

The four-time Oscar-winning movie, The Beautiful Mind, follows the story of John Forbes Nash Jr, played by Russell Crowe. Young Nash was always gifted in the field of mathematics and although he never excelled at school, he showed great promise among his college professors with his ability to solve math problems with ease. This mathematical genius struggled to make discoveries and experienced trouble within his mind since he could not distinguish reality from his paranoia that his colleagues were trying to steal his hypothesis over the Riemann’s hypothesis, a famously unsolved math problem. John was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia which gave John delusions and hallucinations. Often caused by stress, paranoid schizophrenia affected not only Nash's career but also his personal life for decades. His wife divorces him and he no longer becomes respected in the professional world, so he goes on a journey of self-discovery in order to try and miraculously cure his illness. He would go on to remarry his wife, Alicia, and win the Nobel Peace Prize in Economics for his discoveries in game theory,

A true story, The Beautiful Mind shows the audience many STEM fields like psychiatry but most importantly it shows the field of mathematics. John Nash is a mathematician at Princeton University who uses new perspectives of math and data to analyze and solve problems. Another career touched on before the field of psychiatry, a medical specialty devoted to diagnosing, preventing, and treating delirious mental conditions. This includes schizophrenia which is what John Nash was diagnosed with. Today, psychiatrists treat patients like those with schizophrenia using a combination of prescribed medication and therapy appropriate to their specific patient.

Some overall aspects of STEM and SEL in A Beautiful Mind can be shown in the struggle John has trying to overcome his mental illness. Many teenagers today in school struggle with mental health issues that have been shown to affect their studies or their performance in extracurriculars. Although John’s case is more extreme as his schizophrenia makes it difficult to function in his daily life, I would still say it is an accurate depiction of how a mental illness consumes people's work/school life and relationships with family and friends. A STEM aspect is how we try and solve “impossible” math problems today. John Nash was known to take new approaches when solving math problems which opens the doors to discovering that that method could work for other equations or problems. This not only applied to mathematics but also to other careers. With John’s new approach, he created the game theory (economic-based) which is a theoretical framework for conceiving social situations among “players”. It is the science of strategy and optimal decision-making of independent players in a strategic setting. This theory is used today to understand the market situations such as price competition.

We would say the movie is for children ages 9 and above because of the violence and sexual subjects. There are also a number of uses of profanity words, drinking, smoking, and overall fighting scenes. The movie is certified as PG-13, as this movie has some mature locations yet some younger audience members that are mature could handle this movie well. We would recommend this movie as it has an exciting plot and likable characters. The movie is directed well for STEM audience members as the director, Ron Howard has worked on other STEM-inclusive movies like Apollo 13.

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