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Mathematics and Mathematicians in Fortnite

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“Mom, when am I going to use math in my life? Come on, let me play Fortnite”.

By asking this, your child has given you the opportunity to combine math and the most popular game for millions of preteens and teenagers, even adults, around the world. And the conversation probably could go more or less like this:

“Look, son, you know that Epic Games, the company that designed Fortnite, has a mathematician as a boss?” And if your child is more of an adolescent than a child they will probably respond with, ”Yes, but I’m sure he’s a nerd who didn’t study mathematics, he did it on his own, picking up things here and there. I’ve seen a lot of new education videos that say it doesn’t make sense to study math since we have Google and calculators. What we need is to be creative and innovative, those are the qualities they ask for now. You have to see me play Fortnite, to see how innovative and creative I am.”

This is when you, the mother or father, can tell your child that to be creative and innovative, it is good to have a solid knowledge base. Like David Hill, who is the Principal Mathematician at Epic Games.

We looked at his résumé, thanks to Linkedin, and David is a forty-year-old experienced professional who studied mathematics at the wonderful Reed College in Oregon. Yes, where Steve Jobs started.

At this point, your child could say, ”Okay, but I’m sure he played video games.” Well, we don’t know if he did or not but at the start of the 90’s, he could have. What we do know from his résumé is that he preferred to continue researching mathematics so he chose to change universities and went to the California Institute of Technology, Caltech.

Once here we could say ”Does that sound familiar? That is the university that Sheldon Cooper does research at on The Big Bang Theory.”

He was there for seven years researching his thesis in Applied Mathematics.  The good thing for David was that he stayed in California for a few more years researching and giving classes. As he explains in his résumé ”While at Caltech I taught classes in both the Applied Math and Aeronautics departments, with subjects such as Stochastic Calculus and Hydrodynamic Stability. Computational physics constituted the majority of my research, with a focus on fluid and solid mechanics.” He may play video games, but that sounds like serious research and teaching at a lifelong institution.

After, he made the jump to a private company and animation, to none other than Dreamworks. Here he specialized in special effects software for team developers. The majority of his work was specializing in physically based simulation tools. He was there until 2015, living in the areas around Los Angeles until he joined Epic Games as their Principal Mathematician. You can see a video on YouTube where he talks very specifically about the development of Battle Royale and how it functions on many platforms, but other than that no details are given about his position.

But besides that, we can tell our child that it is not just David Hill. There’s also Marc Petit, who studied mathematics in Paris and now is the General Manager of Unreal Engine, one of the branches of Epic Games. As well as the advisor Michael S. Atamas who, in addition to studying mathematics and philosophy, graduated from Harvard Law School. Even still we have, Gustav Melich, a Bulgarian who studied electrical engineering (like Daniel G. De Vega, one of the co-founders of Smartick) and is now one of the Head Artists at Epic Games. Or the numerous young students of Asian descent who have studied computers at university, which involves a great deal of math. Or Jason Arnold, who after eight years with Amazon joined Epic Games and is a mathematician and an IT specialist.

Is there math in Fortnite? I’m sure there is because there are a lot of mathematicians.

The kids would like to know.

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Journalist. Smartick blogger. In the last four years, avid reader of everything related to education. Mother of three Smartick children.
Berta de Vega

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1 Comment;

  • Ben SchachtSep 13 2019, 10:42 AM

    This is AMAZING I didn’t know that fortnite took math to play😃😃😃