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SUBJECTS — U.S./1945 - 1991, Diversity & California; Mathematics;
        Literature/Literary Devices: character development, symbols, subplot,
        foils and irony;
SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL LEARNING — Male Role Model; Self-Esteem; Education;
MORAL-ETHICAL EMPHASIS --- Trustworthiness;Responsibility; Citizenship.

Age: 12+; MPAA Rating -- PG; Drama; 1987; 105 minutes; Color. Available from Amazon.com.

Description: This film is a dramatization of the efforts of a math teacher, Jaime Escalante, at Garfield High School in Los Angeles, whose motivational skills and teaching techniques brought academic success to students accustomed to failure. In 1982, eighteen of his students passed the Advanced Placement Test in Calculus, a success story muddied by charges of cheating when it was discovered that twelve of his students gave the same incorrect answer to one question on the test. The story reveals the response by the Educational Testing Service, the organization responsible for AP exams, and raises questions of racism. Not known to the moviemakers was strong evidence that cheating did, in fact, occur on the first AP Exam. However, when retested under strict scrutiny, the students passed a second exam. For information on this twist in the story, click here.

Rationale for Using the Movie: Stand and Deliver is inspirational to all students. It also shows how, with hard work, the barriers a disadvantaged background can be overcome. There is clear and obvious use of several literary devices.

Objectives/Student Outcomes Using this Learning Guide: Students will recognize and explain the literary devices of symbol, foil and irony and the use of these devices to elucidate theme. Students will exercise their writing skills.

Possible Problems: Smoking, alcohol use and allusions to sexuality are shown in the film. There are many incidences of profanity. The film telescopes four years of math study into one year and presents an inaccurate rendition of the facts relating to the dispute with the ETS.



Before showing the movie, tell students that the story of movie is pretty much true except in a few respects that you'll tell them about at the end of the movie. Tell students to watch how one of the characters, a boy named "Angel" dresses. What are the moviemakers trying to tell us about him through his clothing?

Post-Viewing Comments

When the movie is over, tell students that:

    (1) Mr. Escalante worked for six years before the breakthrough 1982 test in which 18 Garfield High students demonstrated that they had mastered calculus. He started by encouraging area middle schools to offer algebra in their eighth and ninth grades to help students acquire the background necessary to understand calculus. He taught summer school for student who wanted to upgrade their math skills.

    (2) There is strong evidence that the students did cheat. Twelve of them used an identical incorrect formula for the one of the problems and also made an identical mathematical error while simplifying a fraction, a task they had performed successfully thousands of times before. In interviews years later with a journalist, two of the students admitted that there was cheating on that one particular question, but later withdrew their admissions. However, they did know their calculus because a few months later, when they were tested again, under strict scrutiny, and they all passed. Teachers may want to have students read TWM's Stand and Deliver Handout (.doc) as homework after seeing the movie.

Jaime Escalante



Rationale and Objectives
Possible Problems
Parenting Points

Using the Movie in Class:
      Introduction to the Movie
      Discussion Questions


Additional Discussion Questions:
      Social-Emotional Learning
      Moral-Ethical Emphasis
            (Character Counts)

Additional Assignments

Other Sections:
      Bridges to Reading
      Links to the Internet
      Selected Awards & Cast

MOVIE WORKSHEETS: TWM offers the following movie worksheets to keep students' minds on the film and to focus their attention on the lessons to be learned from the movie. Teachers can modify the movie worksheets to fit the needs of each class. See also TWM's Historical Fiction in Film Cross-Curricular Homework Project and Movies as Literature Homework Project.

Additional ideas for lesson plans for this movie can be found at TWM's guide to Lesson Plans Using Film Adaptations of Novels, Short Stories or Plays.

For a film showing how poor kids from the Barrio can master engineering, see Spare Parts/Underwater Dreams. For an example of a track team powered by Mexican-American athletes from a poor community, see McFarland, USA.

For other movies on the Hispanic experience in the U.S., see My Family, A Better Life, For Love or Country — The Arturo Sandoval Story, West Side Story, and El Norte. For college level classes, check out Lone Star, an excellent film with a unique twist on white-Hispanic relations in a small Texas town.


Discussion Questions:

After the film has been watched, engage the class in a discussion about the movie.

1. The changes in Angel's clothing are a symbol which signifies something about his character in a way that is related to one of the themes of the story. What is the change and how does that change relate to theme? Suggested Response: At the beginning of the movie, Angel's clothing signifies that he is in a gang. By the end they were neatly pressed and fashionable, part of the mainstream culture. This shows that Angel was transformed by the experience of working hard in the class and then mastering calculus.

2. What is revealed in the character of Angel when he bargains with Mr. Escalante to keep a book at home and how does this incident illustrate one of the key barriers to success facing young people such as Angel? Suggested Response: Angel wants to keep a book at home so he would not be seen by his friends as a serious student. In gangs as well as many friendship groups, academic success is a sign of leaving the circle of camaraderie, of disloyalty and of a desire to be a part of the mainstream culture.

3. Two of the main characters in the film have foils — less important characters who are different than the main characters in a way that points to theme. Identify the foils and describe how their differences with the main characters point to theme. Suggested Response: The lady who was the head of the math department who doubted that the students could learn calculus and who believed that they had probably cheated, was a foil for Mr. Escalante. She didn't think that the students could meet the challenge of calculus and she believed that they cheated. Mr. Escalante believed in his students, had high expectations for them and didn't believe that they had cheated. Angel's gang banger friend, who didn't try to learn anything and didn't grow out of the gang life, was Angel's foil. He stayed mired in the gang while Angel was able to lift himself out of it.

4.   Assume that the students cheated on Free Response Question #6. There is an irony in this fact. What is it? Suggested Response: First, these students didn't need to cheat. They passed the exam the first time without any credit on FRQ #6 and then they passed a different AP Calculus test when it was given the second time. Second, in their effort to cheat, they got the wrong information and the wrong answer. In other words, the cheating didn't help the students get their passing grades the first time around and they suffered a substantial penalty by having to take the test again. This is an example of situational irony.

5.   Assume that the students cheated on Free Response Question #6. How does that fact affect the core messages of the film? Suggested Response: Two of the core messages are that (1) inspired students can achieve wonders if they have teachers who have high expectations and (2) something very good for math education and for the Latino community happened at Garfield High while Mr. Escalante taught there. Whether or not Mr. Escalante's students cheated on one question because of the pressure they were under and their inability to resist temptation, they still learned calculus. It is obvious that they worked hard and mastered the material, given the fact that they passed the examination again when ETS monitors were present. Thus, the evidence that they cheated on Free Response Question #6, does not negate their achievement in mastering calculus.

For additional information click here.



Any of the discussion questions can serve as a writing prompt. Additional assignments include:

1. Write a report that may appear in a newspaper on attitudes toward cheating held by your peers. Gather ideas from members of your class and seek a range of responses. Consider the following: cheating can be self-destructive and may lead to diminished self image; it creates a general atmosphere of distrust; it is unfair in terms of competition and, finally, who wants to live their life knowing that they relied on cheating for what they accomplished?

2. Write an informal account of an individual you know who is capable of academic success but who is not pursuing good grades or even considering going to college. What motivates this person and what help has been offered over time to change his or her direction. You may add what you have done to assist this person. If you choose to write about yourself in this regard, be sure to look deeply into your reasons for failing to pursue academic success.

3. Read the handout about the legal aspects of the case involving ETS and Mr. Escalante's students. Read the information about burdens of proof. Write an expository essay, carefully summarizing the information and determine whether or not you think the Garfield students did, in fact, cheat on the exam.

For additional assignments, click here.


Select questions that are appropriate for your students.

Are you concerned that time will be wasted if you are absent from class? Worry no more  .  .  .   Check out TeachWithMovies' Set-Up-the-Sub.

Parenting Points: Point out to your child that the students who may have cheated on one question still passed enough of the test to earn a good grade on the exam. Let them know that, as in most incidences of cheating, the victim is the individual who cheats; he or she is hurting him or herself.

Reminder to Teachers: Obtain all required permissions from your school administration before showing any film.

Teachers who want parental permission to show this movie can use TWM's Movie Permission Slip.

This Learning Guide was written by Mary RedClay and James Frieden and was last revised on September 8, 2012.

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