"I watched this when it premiered on my local PBS affiliate and I thought it was a lot of fun and full of loads and loads of interesting history.
As a world history teacher, I am always on the lookout for something that can tell our story with a twist. This one does it quite nicely.
The documentary tells the story of man's use of one (and other numbers, but the focus always returns to the number 1) throughout time with a humorous twist. It explores early uses of math, why mankind had to develop math, why the Roman Numerals were inferior to our current system and continues on to the modern use of binary numbers.
As soon as I saw it I knew I wanted it for my history class. It will be great as a different sort of review of the history that we have studied thus far.
I give this one a grade of 'A'."
History of Math
Beverly E. Van Citters | Glendale, CA USA | 10/30/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I saw this program on a PBS station and loved it! As a college professor teaching in a basic skills 'Learning Community' of Math and Reading, I found this DVD gave students a framework to understand and see the progression of the very concepts they were using in basic math classes. Much class discussion ensued because of the humor and the presentation provided. I agree with another reviewer. This program is effective for students from grades 6 up to and including college. What a fun way to learn! I purchased my own DVD but also ordered a copy for our college library."
Great math documentary
J. Hamilton | Visalia, CA | 04/29/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I watched this when it was shown on PBS one night. It is a fantastic blend of humor and math history. Being a math teacher I immediately found myself figuring out how to work this movie into my lesson plans. Any one that has an appreciation for math and history will love this film."
A story for every1
Vincent D. Pisano | CT, USA | 01/25/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The Story of 1 is a terrific hybrid of history and mathematical concepts. While both my wife and I are educators, my field is history and hers is math, and we both feel that this entertaining documentary would work exceptionally for middle-school students right on through college age, and in both of our respective disciplines.
Terry Jones, enjoyable as always, traces the number one through its pre-historic beginnings to its current applications in computer binary code and reveals how numbers and concepts transformed civilizations in the time between. Matters presented include the progress of one with other numbers and how civilizations were allowed to grow as a result; the inefficiency of Roman numerals over Arabic (Indian!) numerals and the latter's capitalist conquest; and finally with Leibniz's assertion that only one and zero are necessary for any mathematical problem. Also, most interestingly, he shows the Australian aboriginal culture whose native counting system never moved beyond the number one. He does this, of course, in his usual humorous way with the assistance of modern experts and actors in period clothing. He also travels to many of the sites to show first-hand the evidence for that which he is explaining.
Mr. Jones, like me, is clearly not an expert in mathematical concepts - he is more comfortable with the historical details - but the viewer learns alongside him in clearly illustrated sequences where imaginative animations have been added for good measure. Likewise, it offers an historical appreciation and understanding for those who are more numerically minded - like my wife - for the mathematical systems we often take for granted.
It is highly informative and short enough to be easily utilized in the classroom setting."
Very fun documentary, but a very brief overview
Gradient Vector Field | MA, USA | 06/18/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This was a really fun documentary to watch, regardless of how elementary it was overall. However, the documentary is only about an hour long so you can't really recount the history of civilization (which goes with math) in that short period of time. This documentary does give the viewer a clearly defined impression that the number one is far more complex in history than most people might have thought. Granted there are assuredly more numbers than just one, the friends 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9 do make a cameo appearance every now and again, but as the DVD points out... they're all made up of units of one when broken down! That is until the rise of zero comes into play.
Math and history are probably two of my most favored subjects and I've been getting into documentaries as of late, so to combine the two in one setting was a great find! All this and to top it off with having it narrated by Terry Jones from Monty Python fame. With that kind of a narrator I was expecting a fair degree of silliness throughout the documentary. Granted it's not nearly as off the wall as we get in Monty Python skits (unfortunately there are no silly walks), but it did have its humorous moments. I suppose the concept derived from the fact that most people find math boring or cumbersome so they wanted to lighten the mood. Most of this silliness is generated via computer graphics with representations of numbers getting into mischief and so forth. Terry Jones certainly has his witty quips thrown in to make it entertaining as well. I must reference what he said the Egyptians liked to do for those who have seen this already.
This documentary goes over how essential mathematics was for building civilization even in ancient times dating back to Sumer. It goes over some of the most major breakthroughs in mathematics in history and how those affected the world we know today. One part I found particularly fascinating was when they were going over the Roman system and how cumbersome it was to use to make even some of the most simplistic calculations, especially if you wanted to deal with large numbers! The effects would hamper the rise of Europe's civilization for generations until the numerals from India were eventually introduced via the Arab nations who refined them a little. Eventually the documentary brings us into the digital and goes over binary, don't worry you don't really have to know how to read the binary system to really get what's going on at the end.
If you did pick this up to show to a class then I'm sort of torn on this topic. Some of the information is probably too complex for younger students, but also might be too silly for those in high school. Lets admit it, not all high school students find mathematics all that riveting and to see dancing numbers on the screen just might not grab their interest. A junior high level class may be more acceptable, but still there might be some subjects touched upon that few will truly grasp and understand, depending on their schooling level at that age. Just some thoughts for teachers who may decide to purchase this.
Amidst all this it really is an excellent brief overview. So if you have a general interest in history and you want to see how math really made our civilization possible then this is definitely something worth watching. On the flip side if you're into math and you want to see how math influenced society and civilization in history then this is also a must see! If you already have a decent handle on both subjects don't plan on finding any new information here, because this really is a brief overview, kind of plants the seeds of curiosity for more in depth research, if you will. However brief this is, it is fun to watch and even if you know the history and have a decent math background like myself, then I have to say I spent an hour being entertained by subjects I already love with a very smart script to pull it all together."