Ugh math. It always was my least favorite school subject. Even now, while I mostly read and write as a corporate lawyer, I cringe whenever calculations sneak their way into my job. But my second grader is learning so much about math at school now, so I figured a visit to the Museum of Math in NYC was in order.
MoMath is Interactive
The Museum of Math or “MoMath” is extremely interactive. The two floors of exhibits showcase various mathematical concepts through play. There is a square wheeled bike to ride over a bumpy track, a basketball launcher to maneuver, race cars whose speeds you must adjust, mazes to get through. Everything is hands on.
A young toddler will enjoy themselves just touching and grabbing at things, but much like mathematics itself, this museum is geared toward elementary and middle school aged kids. The exhibits require some level of competence to understand.
Being a math hater and arts lover, I most enjoyed the exhibits that felt “artsy”. I could have spent all day tessellating bunnies and dinosaurs at the Tessellation Station. And it was pretty darn cool to watch our arms sprout more of us over and over until we resembled a tree with branches.
I also really enjoyed the series of mazes and puzzles that appear on an interactive floor map - I guess puzzles can be considered “math” and I really do like them. My daughter seemed to generally enjoy herself during our visit. As I said, the museum succeeds at being immersive and hands-on.
But MoMath Doesn’t Explain Much
But alas my distaste for math continues apace. MoMath, unfortunately, does very little to describe what is happening in each exhibit, or what mathematical principles are being showcased or tested. Many exhibits contain little instruction or the instruction provided is quite unclear, leaving guests confused on how to operate the exhibit, or perhaps worse, walking away from an exhibit having learned nothing from it.
I wish the museum would make operation of their exhibits and the math concepts behind them more easy to understand. It is not a big museum and this critique (which I saw all over its Yelp page), seems easy enough to address with some better instruction plaques. Without this, the museum becomes just a place to kill some time with kids on a rainy day.
The National Museum of Mathematics is located at 11 East 26th Street. It is open daily from 10am until 5pm. Admission is $17 per adult and $14 for students. Kids under 2 are free.