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Matrix revisited

  • Key Stage 3
  • Popular Activity
  • Topical

Type: Activity
Learning Strategy: Modelling
Topic: Light

Based on the concluding part to the hugely popular Matrix Trilogy, in this activity pupils design and build models of a new special effect for the Matrix. They construct a 'film set' and in the process, using drinking straws to represent beams of light, show how light travels and how it is reflected and refracted.

Published: 22nd January 2005
Reviews & Comments: 16

Try the activity

You will need Acrobat Reader installed to open the activity sheets.

11-14 (KS3)
Light QCA 8h: reflection, refraction, and absorption of different colours of light by surfaces. 14-16 (KS4)
Waves as Radiation: similar contexts

Running the activity

First, set the scene for this starter and main activity by talking about the Matrix, and its special effects. If you can, show a trailer for the movie.
Then tell pupils to imagine that they are helping to design special effects for the first film of a new Matrix series.

The scenario is: Agent Smith has chased Neo to the 22nd floor of the building. Neo is hiding on the far side of a huge concrete wall. Neo has new powers that will help him spot his enemy, to avoid him. He can send out beams of light rays, which we will 'see in the film.

Next, give out page 1. This gives the instructions for the task, and tells pupils how to use the cutouts on pages 2, 3, 4 and 5 to build models to show what happens next.
They will build two different scenes, showing how the beams:
• bounce off walls (reflect)
• pass through concrete as if it were glass (refract)
Ask pupils to think about getting the angles of light correct.

Having made the models, pupils can explain (as if to the special effects people) how the science works. Activity 4 is an extension activity that looks at the colour of light. Agent Smith can now send out white light (a combination of red, green and blue straws). Pupils model how this reflects off the walls and suggest that Neo could avoid this, by turning himself blue or red. You could take photos of the models for display.

News links

What is the Matrix?
The official Matrix website includes trailers, storyboards and lots of behind the scenes information

Reviews & Comments

Write your online review to share your feedback and classroom tips with other teachers. How well does it work, how engaging is it, how did you use it, and how could it be improved?

Matrix Revisited

Jun 19th, 2013

4 Star

I have done this activity with two low-ability groups and they both thoroughly enjoyed the activity.

I got them to stick the walls onto A3 paper to make them more stable - adding tabs for the walls to be glued down.

They could then move the characters around so get the best positions for reflection.

It certainly helped to cement the ideas in their minds

Reviewer: Simon Holt


Nov 28th, 2011

5 Star


Reviewer: prishilla nalliah


Mar 21st, 2010

5 Star

This was a great activity and we really enjoyed playing with the angles of light. One light disadvantage was that some of the class had no idea what the Matrix was! Can't believe it really - we managed to watch a clip to fill them all in. I really must be getting old!

Reviewer: Mary Hughes


May 14th, 2008

3 Star

Kept y8 occupied post SATs for quite a while, tricky to get started but they enjoyed themselves

Reviewer: Julie Brough

8K light

Dec 13th, 2007

4 Star

I used this activity at the end of the year 8 light topic. Students were all engaged, even with the film being 'old'. Some found the straws difficult to position but otherwise an enjoyable end to a topic.

Reviewer: Katherine Farrell


Jul 12th, 2007

4 Star

used as an end of term activity. pupils seemed to enjoy it. not easy to be completely accurate.

Reviewer: Shaun Woodhead

Matrix Revisted September 2006

Oct 1st, 2006

4 Star

Used this with an able year 10 group. They were all on task and it reinforced the idea of refraction and reflection. Got the students to provide simple, written explanations so that the actors/actresses could understand what was happening. Also tried to get the students to think of how an optical beam would help Neo (for total internal reflection). Some managed a simple idea.


Good Fun

Jun 25th, 2006

3 Star

The activity was used for a yr8 class as a finishing off activity to the unit Light. The model was hard to contruct and keep together but overall the kids loved the idea of building a set. Whether they were fans of the Matrix or not, all of them had a good time. Very effective revision for a difficult unit. Needs a couple of lessons spending on it.

Reviewer: Sophie Higson

The Matrix Model!!

May 10th, 2006

3 Star

I thought the idea of this lesson was fantastic! Really up to date and totally unique. The starter of the movie trailer was fab and my year 8's really enjoyed it.

The making of the models was also fun, although i found the actual learning impact of the task was quite limited. The models were a little fiddly, although it was an easy, fun activity to round off the tooic of Light. Would be good for low ability classes in particular :)

Reviewer: Rysia Kaminski

Matrix - Light

Apr 26th, 2006

4 Star

Really good revision activity. The matrix film got the boys attention and the girls liked the set making (yr 10). I will definately use again.

Reviewer: Helen Carter

The Matrix

Feb 18th, 2006

4 Star

Try this out threeweeks ago, with my 2 classes of year 10 really enjoyed it, they kept on task and in a test everyone of my year 10 got refraction right. Think it did its job really well

Reviewer: Julia Hulme

Matrix 15th Feb 2006

Feb 15th, 2006

3 Star

This activity provided some light relief from writing for year 8 EBD pupils. Support staff enjoyed it too!

Reviewer: Emma North

Marix review

Feb 4th, 2006

1 Star

In view that a common misconception is that light travels from the eye to the object I think this activity reinforces this idea.

Reviewer: Pamela Atherton

Matrix Revisited

Jul 20th, 2005

3 Star

Takes a lot of time but is fun and enjoyable, would use coloured string next time to get better accuracy.

Reviewer: anne allen


May 19th, 2005

4 Star

took a while to get right and many didn't quite work, but we all enjoyed it.

mike roffey

Reviewer: Michael Roffey

Matrix Revisited

Apr 30th, 2005

3 Star

Really fun but hard to keep angles accurate with straws and sticky tape. It was quite time-consuming and the angles involved were not particularly challenging, but it was a nice end-of-term activity to round up the topic.

Reviewer: Julia Corbett

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