Shannon Pender

A Playground for Mathematics: The MoMath Museum

Shannon Pender

I’ll admit it: I’m no math lover.

It never made much sense to me. I couldn’t wrap my head around the numbers and shapes in a textbook. I know I’m not alone in this, and there are plenty of people in the classroom who still ask the math-skeptic’s mantra: When will we use this in the real world?

One museum in New York City is dedicated to answering this very question.

The Museum of Mathematics, playfully named the MoMath, takes numbers out of the classroom and into a multi-level, interactive fun house of algorithms and theorems. Its mission: to foster a love of math in a diverse, curious audience who can learn that math isn’t just about numbers on a page. Visitors will walk out of the MoMath aware of how math “illuminates the patterns that abound in our world.”

It was 2008 when the small Goudreau Museum on Long Island closed its doors. A small group met to collaborate on a new museum, one that would fill the void and provide hands-on math programming that schools around the country desperately needed. Located in Midtown in Manhattan, the MoMath boasts over 30 hands-on exhibits within a 19,000-square-foot space.

If your idea of math is like mine was—that it’s dry and boring—get ready to have your perspective flipped upside down. The MoMath will change your outlook on everything from geometry to calculus.

In the MoMath, you won’t walk through long corridors gazing at art or fragile exhibits. You are the exhibit. It’s easy to forget you’re in a museum and not a high-tech amusement park. The museum allows visitors to interact with normally abstract mathematical concepts.

One exhibit, “Harmony of the Spheres,” showcases how math influences harmony and melody in music. Visitors play notes by touching spheres suspended in the exhibit. As the notes come together, participants watch their music move through colored lights.

The museum covers a broad spectrum of mathematical sciences. This doesn’t just mean addition and multiplication, though. It also involves statistics, computer science, operations research and more.

The MoMath shows that you don’t have to become an engineer or play the numbers game for a living to see where math has its place in the world. It doesn’t matter if you’re a math-lover, a math-skeptic or somewhere in between—the Museum of Mathematics is for everyone.

Did You Know?

The International Mathematical Olympiad (IMO), first held in 1959, hosts an annual competition for high school students. Much like the Olympic Games, the IMO switches host countries and brings people together from all over the world. The 2016 Olympiad was hosted by Hong Kong and consisted of contestants from over 100 countries.

Photo Credit: Beyond My Ken

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