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Visit to NYC Math Museum

Visit to NYC Math Museum

The first thing you notice is the great location - it's on 26th Street directly facing Madison Square Park. The Museum occupies two floors, the ground floor and a basement, with elevator buttons labeled 0 and -1. Sadly, that was the highlight of my $16 visit.

The concept is wonderful, but a unique math teaching opportunity has been lost. The reason is simple, too much of the museum is dedicated to "fun activities" with little or no real mathematical content - or at least none that's explained. As its name implies, the museum follows the conventional museum concept in many ways - with objects more like "sculptures" than mathematics teaching.

One huge impressive object was a steel cable spiral running the entire height of the stairwell. I fiddled with the "controls" for five minutes and still had no clue what the thing was doing, apart from looking nice. That's a pity.

There was no use of computers for mathematical calculation, no factorization, no prime numbers, no pi (except that the door handles were models of the pi symbol), no mobius strip and no math workshops or classes. The staff just "manned the exhibits".

The kids were having fun. But what does that mean as regards a mathematical education?

There's the obligatory museum store containing mostly puzzles and t-shirts. I priced one interesting sculpture that caught my eye, but not for any math reason, it was just a nice sculpture!

I left feeling disappointed that a superb math teaching opportunity had been lost, or at least not fully implemented.

Content written and posted by Ken Abbott

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