Family Outing: Museum of Mathematics in Manhattan
By Kaitlin Ahern

Family Outing: Museum of Mathematics in Manhattan

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The Museum of Mathematics, or MoMath, opened Dec. 15, 2012, in Manhattan. This dynamic and interactive museum, which focuses on enhancing public understanding and perception of math in daily life, is the first of its kind in the country.

 

The Big Apple made history in December 2012 by opening the doors to the Museum of Mathematics, the only math museum in the United States. What’s even more impressive, though, is the way the museum is shattering a prejudice that’s held on through generations: Think math is boring? Think again!

momath in nyc

MoMath’s exhibits are designed by Tim Nissen, who previously served as associate director of exhibition design at the American Museum of Natural History.

 

This specialized museum also comes at an opportune time, when our country is more focused than ever on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education. While we’ve fallen behind other countries in this field, the careers it offers are in demand and expanding quickly, offering a bright future to kids who favor STEM.

pedals on petals exhibit

The Pedal on the Petals exhibit, in which visitors ride a square-wheeled tricycle around a sunflower-shaped track, is a favorite that the MoMath team carried over from its original traveling exhibit, Math Midway, which inspired the creation of the museum.

The Museum of Mathematics, or MoMath for short, proves to kids (and grown-ups, for that matter) that math is way cooler than it gets credit for being. Its mission is to “enhance public understanding and perception of mathematics in daily life,” but its methods are dynamic, interactive, and—dare we say it—just plain fun.

The museum’s more than 40 exhibits and activities appeal to kids’ natural curiosity about the world and offer visitors of all ages new and novel ways to experience math. Within its 20,000 square feet you’ll find exhibits such as Feedback Fractals, which uses ordinary video cameras to produce intricate, infinitely repeating patterns, and Wall of Fire, where visitors interact with a room-high plane of laser light to discover the hidden shapes lurking in everyday objects.

Enigma Cafe at MoMath

The museum also houses the Enigma Cafe, which serves up family fare as well as another opportunity for mathematical discovery: There are digital puzzles at each table.

Museum of Mathematics upper level

This rendering of MoMath's upper level shows an educational environment that feels more like an amusement park than a classroom.

You might recognize some of MoMath’s exhibits, as the inspiration for the museum came from a traveling exhibit called Math Midway that visited several area museums over the past three years. Creator Glen Whitney, a hedge fund manager turned mathematics advocate, says the overwhelmingly positive response to Math Midway convinced him and his team that they were on to something.

momath coaster roller

MoMath founder and executive director Glen Whitney tests out the Coaster Rollers exhibit, where visitors can propel themselves along a track filled with oddly shaped objects.


"There is nothing in the world that hasn’t been improved by math," says Whitney, who serves as MoMath’s executive director. "Math is fun, beautiful, and important to getting a really good job in today’s world. MoMath showcases the truly vast mathematical landscape and will take visitors on a numerical journey through the everyday world, providing vivid experiences that will leave them more aware of their mathematical surroundings."

Details

Address: Museum of Mathematics, 11 E. 26th St., Murray Hill

Hours: 10am-5pm daily; closes at 2:30pm on the first Wednesday of each month

Admission: Online purchase: $15; $9 seniors, students, and children ages 2-12; free for children younger than 2 (Note: Tickets purchased at the door have a $1 surcharge)

For more information: 212-542-0566; momath.org

 

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