I went to the National Museum of Mathematics (MoMath) today – what else would I do while in NYC?!! If you were unaware, this is yet another great attraction to add to your to-do list next time you are in New York City. I was lucky enough to have a few hours today to myself and thoroughly enjoyed my hands-on experiences – me and several hundred school-age children.
The museum is focused on providing hands-on, interactive mathematical experiences so students can see, create, and play with mathematics. There are games, art exhibits, bikes with square wheels to ride, cars to control around a mobius strip, angles, tessellations, fighting robots, logic puzzles….it was really fun, and there was a lot of ‘learning’ embedded in all of the exhibits, though I did find I was the only one reading – the kids wanted to just ‘do’. But can you really blame them?
One of my favorite exhibits when you walk into the museum is the wall of etchings done on metal plates. There are parabolic lights above them that move and due to the angles the metal etchings are at, it appears the whole display is moving and that the etches are 3D when in fact they are flat. The etchings themselves are beautiful – lots of mobius strips in there!! I tried to capture it on video but it doesn’t do it justice.
Another favorite was the art exhibit showing the amazing geometric sculptures of Miguel Berrocal – famous for creating sculpture puzzles – i.e. sculptures built by pieces fitting together. There are numerous sculptures on display along with puzzle books showing the steps to build some of the sculptures. There are also two hands-on opportunities to try to build some of the sculptures. I tried my hand at the above sculpture, “portrait de Michele”, which they recreated the pieces using a 3D printer and then provide ‘directions’ to build. My results are below….I was very proud of myself!
There was a little bit of everything – I made myself into a human fractal tree (that’s me as the trunk if you look really close). And then I made two 3D shapes (sphere and star) by putting together flat plates with 2D shapes (circles and triangles) in a layered order so that they end up looking 3D. That was a challenge trying to piece the different sized shapes in the right order.
There was a lot more fun to be had – from the square tire bike to the shape challenges to building polyhedra. All in all, a fun-filled few hours doing some math and experiencing students enjoying doing math as well. If you ever get the chance to get to NYC, be sure to include the MoMath in your itinerary!