I never liked math; I’ve never been good at math, but I love New York’s year-old National Museum of Mathematics (MoMath). I’ve been there twice – with different sets of grandchildren – and they love it too.
At first, my son (father of two math lovers) didn’t like the sound of taking his kids to visit a math museum. He resisted. I kept saying, “It’s interactive. It’s fun. Think of it as a Math Playground.” I had to drag him there. Then I had to drag him out of the place two hours later. Which is all you really need to know about this two-story, highly imaginative play area with the coolest equipment around. It’s for kids of all ages – including adults – and the only Math Museum in the country.
Did I understand much of the math behind the exhibits? Not really. But I did enjoy watching kids ride the square-wheeled tricycle on a bumpy track. The smooth ride – according to the employee overseeing the play area — is due to the way the track’s curves keep the wheel axles level.
Did the child spinning around in the swivel chair understand why the perfectly straight cords came together and formed a beautifully curved surface around him? I doubt it. But he had fun. And didn’t want to get off.
Coaster Rollers was another big success. Kids pull themselves down a track on rollers that look like acorns, and discover, to their surprise, that the ride is smooth. Even after they are told why, they just love pulling themselves down the track again and again.
Feedback Fractals? Water Frieze? Shape Ranger? Harmony of the Spheres? Human tree? Math Square? Polypaint? Formula Morph? Rather than try and explain these interactive play stations, just take a look at children and adults enjoying them. Then come down yourself with your kids, grandkids, partner and friends and see for yourself.
Weekends are, of course, more family oriented. Weekdays, more geared to children on formally scheduled school trips. The best time to avoid mobs – so you can spend plenty of time with each exhibit — is to arrive during the week after 2 p.m.
Images by Eleanor Foa Dienstag
The Math Museum
11 East 26th Street
10 a.m. – 5 p.m., 7 days a week.
The Museum closes at 2:30 the first Wednesday of every month.
Admission: $15 per adult; $9 children, students and seniors.
There is a surcharge of $1 if tickets are purchased at the door.