Although I’ve been meaning to visit the Museum of Math ever since it opened in December, I only got the chance to do it this Labor Day. I wanted to share my thoughts and encourage everyone who can to visit.
I love the mission. Math should not be taught in a vacuum and having various activities that each showcase different mathematical properties is a great approach to get kids (and adults) engaged while learning some math. Some of the activities that stood out to me were bikes with differently sized square wheels that can only go around a certain diameter track; a “helix” shape that explains multiplication by lighting up a fiber between the numbers and highlighting the resulting value; and a fractal tree generator that would use your body to create the trunk and branches. I enjoyed these since they had an interactive physical component that provided immediate feedback.
There were also a bunch of activities that were primarily software based. Two examples are a “kaleidoscope” drawing tool and an app that explores 3D shapes and functions by letting you tweak the parameters. These weren’t very engaging and most were abandoned quickly. In addition, some of the tools either had broken sensors or were buggy which made them less fun than they should have been.
A museum should not be able to replaced with iPad apps and MoMath places too much emphasis on the software. They should move away from these apps and focus on the physical exploratory activities that cannot be recreated at home. I found that there was very little continuity between the exhibits and wish they did a better job curating so that lessons from one could be applied to another. This would limit the breadth but would make the experience more valuable. Similar to an art museum, they could have a base collection that never changes as well as exhibits that rotate every couple of months.
The museum has been open for less than a year and I’m optimistic it will only improve. I only wish there were more math museums opening up.