Motion, Music and More at National Museum of Mathematics

The third grade boys recently took a trip to the National Museum of Mathematics (MoMath), billed as "the nation’s first major museum dedicated to mathematics." The facility appeals to a kid's sense of fun with a hands-on learning center that challenges conventional views of mathematics. Ms. Kehoe and Ms. Alterman organized the trip to enhance classroom learning based on the Singapore math program. Director of Communications Design Jeremy Katz '04, who accompanied the boys and teachers on their trip, offers the following report:

Upon arrival, the boys were delighted to see a bevy of mathematical interactive exhibits to choose from in a huge play area on the ground floor. They queued up to ride square-wheeled tricycles that run on a cycloid terrain. As the boys rode the bikes, a museum staff member explained that the bikes challenge the notion you can only maneuver with round/circular wheels. Since the terrain is designed to match the contour, it allows for any shape, except triangles, to move on it.

The group of budding mathematicians also flocked to the Tracks of Galileo, where they built tracks with different curves and discovered what it takes to make the fastest downhill track. They also visited the Motionscape exhibit, where they explored the relationship between position, velocity and acceleration with their own bodies.

On the second level of the museum, the boys participated in a private workshop where they learned about tessellations, geometric patterns that can continue endlessly with no overlaps or gaps. They learned how to identify tessellation occurrences in the natural world, such as a hexagon which can be found in a beehive, as well as human-engineered patterns that can be made from familiar shapes. Working together in small groups, the boys created different patterns from shapes, including rhombuses, triangles and the outline of dinosaurs! 

After completing the workshop, the boys were free to explore more interactive exhibits such as the math square, a huge computer screen built into the floor that adapts to where people are standing and how they are moving. Before leaving, the boys posed for a group picture with the Harmony of the Spheres sculpture, which is comprised of glowing orbs that, when touched, allow participants to make and "see" music. As they boarded the bus to head back to Browning, Ms. Kehoe noted that the boys exclaimed how much they loved the museum and wished to return soon.