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It's My Turn (1980)
Claudia Weill (director)

Contributed by Fusun Akman (Coastal Carolina University)

About a mathematician who writes a proof of the Snake Lemma at the speed of light. Her love interest was Michael Douglas, some sort of athlete. One mathematician I know claims he wrote a paper just so that he could cite this movie for the proof of the Snake Lemma."

Contributed by Stephen Gagola (Kent State)

  • "Jill has an exchange with a precocious boy, probably junior high school age, about prime numbers. This was a big disappointment for me: mathematically precocious kids this age are a lot smarter than was represented in the exchange.
  • At one point, some University administrator, probably a Dean, mentions to Jill Clayburgh that 'Group theory is a really hard area to work in'. I wish our own administrators would believe that.
  • Jill's father, at one point, introduces his daughter as a mathematician who is working in finite simple groups. How many group theorists have parents who know what they do? Also, I heard as an anecdote, that this scene had to be edited. The father had first introduced his daughter as someone working in the area of finite, simple, ABELIAN groups. A mathematician (or someone knowledgeable about the subject) present during the screening broke out in laughter on hearing this.
  • Jill, at one point working on the back of an envelope, is frustrated that she `can't quite get this 2-fusion problem to work out'.
  • The movie ends on an up-beat note, mathematically, when the obnoxious grad student and Jill share (in a rather cryptic exchange) some clever insight that would lead to the solution of the classification problem. Interestingly enough, 1980 (the year of the movie) is the more-or-less agreed date that the finite simple groups were classified."

Contributed by Norman Levitt

"Given that Clayburgh was going to prove the "snake lemma", why the hell didn't she generalize slightly and derive the long homology exact sequence associated to a short exact sequence of chain complexes? Only in Hollywood .... By the way, as it happens, when I saw this film some 21 years ago, I had, just the day before, lectured on the homology exact sequence in an intro algebraic topology course. Thus, I couldn't resist blurting out Clayburgh's lines (and those of the grad students) before they were delivered. I got some odd looks from the audience, believe you me."

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Works Similar to It's My Turn
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. A Beautiful Mind by Sylvia Nasar / Akiva Goldsman
  2. The Favor by Donald Petrie (Director) / Sara Parriott (Writer) / Josann McGibbon (Writer)
  3. Mean Girls by Tina Fey (screenplay) / Mark S. Waters (director)
  4. Antonia's Line by Marleen Gorris
  5. Proof by David Auburn
  6. Morte di un matematico napoletano by Mario Martone (director)
  7. The Mirror Has Two Faces by Barbra Streisand (director)
  8. Smilla's Sense of Snow by Peter Hoeg
  9. A Doubter's Almanac by Ethan Canin
  10. Rough Strife by Lynne Sharon Schwartz
Ratings for It's My Turn:
RatingsHave you seen/read this work of mathematical fiction? Then click here to enter your own votes on its mathematical content and literary quality or send me comments to post on this Webpage.
Mathematical Content:
4/5 (1 votes)
Literary Quality:
2/5 (1 votes)

MotifProdigies, Academia, Female Mathematicians,
TopicAlgebra/Arithmetic/Number Theory, Real Mathematics,

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May 2016: I am experimenting with a new feature which will print a picture of the cover and a link to the page for a work of mathematical fiction when it is available. I hope you find this useful and convenient. In any case, please write to let me know if it is because I would be happy to either get rid of it or improve it if that would be better for you. Thanks! -Alex

(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)