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Math Comes Alive – The Math Midway Traveling Exhibit

The Math Midway Traveling Exhibit from the Museum of Mathematics in New York (opening Dec 15, 2012) is visiting the Lawrence Hall of Science in Berkeley, CA from now till January 3, 2013.  In 2013, the exhibit will be at the Museum of Discovery and Science in Fort Lauderdale, FL, Turtle Bay Exploration Park, Redding, CA and Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum, McMinnville, OR

kid friendly math: Math Midway Exhibit

Bike with Square Wheels   – Photo by LiLing Pang

How is it possible to ride a trike with square wheels?  What kind of curve will make for the  fastest roller coaster track?  Can you find your way through a maze by only making right turns and can the solution be represented mathematically?  Can you make a symmetrical pattern or a trimetrical pattern?

kid friendly math: Math Midway Exhibit

Making a Trimetrical Pattern at Math Midway
Photo by: LiLing Pang 

My mind was officially boggled today at the new Math Midway Exhibit at the Lawrence Hall of Science, but in a good way.  Now, I’ve never been much of logical thinker…I still struggle with the simplest probability questions.  Meanwhile, I have two boys who see the world in numbers and patterns.  They talk about it all day long.  Yet today, we bonded over Math and got really excited about it.

kid friendly math: Math Midway Exhibit

The Mysterious Harmonograph – Learning about Pendulums at Math Midway

Photo by: LiLing Pang 

 The Math Midway Exhibit has been on tour since 2009 and was conceived by the Museum of Mathematics in New York City (currently under construction). This exhibit presents Math in a way like you’ve never experience it before.   The  interactive exhibit creatively draws kids (and anyone of any age really) into a world seen through the lens of numbers, patterns, and logic.  This is math you don’t just puzzle over in your head.  Instead, it is math you can feel, touch, see, and tinker with.  It is simply Math you’ll get excited over!  (Did I really just say that?!!)  Engaging with Math in such a concrete way, totally stimulated my curiosity.  You don’t have to be a mathematical kind of person to appreciate these exhibits.  Kids as young as three were interacting with the exhibits at their level, while  teens and adults were engaging with those same exhibits at a totally different level.

Take for example, the exhibit of “Freeing the Puppy.”  Little ones were having fun tangling the puppy’s leash around two poles in the pattern outlined by in the exhibit.  My 9 year old was busy solving the puzzle of which pole to remove to untangle the puppy.  Meanwhile, older kids and adults (Ahem…yes, even myself) were trying to understand how the puzzle might be expressed in a mathematic formula and why removing pole A (oops, spoiler alert) unravels everything.

It was really hard to pick our favorite exhibit.  The square wheeled tricycle was such a novel idea.  It took our concept of reality and turned it upside down, pouring out a plethora of questions.  Why is possible for us to ride a tricycle with square wheels? Why is it that the wheels closer to the center of the circle were smaller than those on the outside?  Why is that only one path around the circle works with each trike?  Actually, even as I’m writing this post….my mind is having a hard time getting these questions out of my head.

kid friendly math: Math Midway Exhibit

Tuning a the curves to maximize velocity – Math Midway

Photo by: LiLing Pang 

My 9 year old son was totally engrossed with making the fastest roller coaster track by modifying the curvature of the track.  I think he could have spent hours just experimenting with this exhibit.  Meanwhile he was leaning about how angles and curves are related to acceleration and velocity.  It’s was a brilliant exhibit that went so much further than just explaining the concept to kids.  (That’s the kind of mathematical exhibit you’d expect to find at a typical museum.)  Instead we got to experiment for ourselves and figure how different curves and bumps affected the speed of the track.  Meanwhile, everyone was making observations and conclusions without even realizing we were learning.

Well, I’m thrilled that we don’t have to wait much longer for the Museum of Mathematics to open it’s doors.  If you’re like me – frustrated that your kids aren’t getting the kind of educations in mathematics that they deserve in public school, you’ve got to check out the Math Midway Exhibit or visit the Museum of Mathematics in New York.  It will get your whole family talking about math all day.  Meanwhile, if you are in the San Francisco Bay Area, don’t miss the Math Midway Exhibit at the Lawrence Hall of Science.  The exhibit is showing from now till January 5, 2013.  Check the museum’s website for the exhibit’s tour schedule across the country.


Disclosure: I was invited to a media preview of the Math Midway Exhibit and while my admissions to the museum was free, these opinions are not influenced by museum staff.


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One Response to Math Comes Alive – The Math Midway Traveling Exhibit

  1. winn September 26, 2012 at 4:02 pm #

    that looks like our kind of fun! they’re visiting semi-near us early 2013. might have to see if we can make a stop over! thanks for sharing this exhibit info.

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