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Museum of Math

MoMath: The Museum of Mathematics opens to the public

On December 15, MoMath—the nation’s first monument dedicated to the subject—opens its doors. Here's a first look at the Museum of Mathematics.

By Jennifer M. Wood


Among the many museums in this city, there are institutions dedicated to everything from tenement housing to copulation. So it’s no surprise that the least-favorite subject of sixth-graders everywhere finally landed its very own tribute. A permanent offshoot of “Math Midway” (a traveling exhibition that first popped up at Manhattan’s 2009 World Science Festival), MoMath replaces lectures and textbooks with more than 30 eclectic exhibits covering topics such as algebra and geometry. The museum, which is designed for visitors of all ages, aims to eliminate math’s intimidation factor and “show how everyone can experience and enjoy mathematical exploration at their own level,” according to hedge-funder–turned–executive director Glen Whitney. MoMath utilizes state-of-the-art technology to personalize each visit: Patrons’ ticket stubs are wirelessly tracked as they traverse the two-floor space, and exhibits adapt based on user preferences from the first few electronic displays. For example, if you opt for more in-depth explanations and choose to read them in Spanish, upcoming displays will default to those settings.

Do this

Your education begins with the MoMath Logo Generator, a big-screen, handle-based display that lets you replicate a symbol of your choosing eight times to create a personalized emblem. The symbol will pop up as your identifying mark on display screens throughout the museum (so you know that the personalization system is working) and is available as a printed sticker for posterity.

Think that a ride on a Square Wheeled Trike can’t be a smooth one? Find out just how bump-free it can be when you take said tricycle over a sunflower-shaped track, where the petals create strategically placed catenaries—curves used in geometry and physics—that make a level ride possible.

Pass 3-D objects or even your own body through the laser-light Wall of Fire, and the lasers will display the items as two-dimensional cross-sections (a cone becomes a triangle and circle, for instance).

Collaborate with other calculation aficionados as three of you pan, zoom and rotate your own video cameras to create a single composite image, which can be manipulated into a bevy of interesting Feedback Fractals (or fragmented shapes). If you like what you see on the live projection screen, click the snapshot button to save the image to your profile so that you can print a copy before you leave.

Hear this

Origami. The Simpsons. Juggling. These are just a few of the topics that have served as jumping-off points for “Math Encounters,” the museum’s free monthly lecture series. On the first Wednesday of the month, accomplished academics and business leaders investigate the many places where math matters. On January 2, mathematician Amy Langville will explain the science behind search-engine rankings in “Random Search, Ordered Results.” February 6 features professor and author Doris Schattschneider discussing the math-inspired art of M.C. Escher. For the next two months the seminars are taking place at Baruch College Conference Center (55 Lexington Ave at E 24th St, 14th floor), but on March 6 they’ll make a permanent move in-house with Pixar’s head of research, Tony DeRose, as the guest speaker.

Museum of Mathematics, 11 E 26th St between Fifth and Madison Aves (212-542-0566, Daily 10am–5pm; $15, children 12 and under $9, children under 2 free. Opens Sat 15.


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