Yesterday, two of my friends and I finally went to the National Museum of Mathematics — MoMATH — downtown in Manhattan, New York. MoMATH is located across 26th Street from Madison Square Park, and after yesterday, I’d definitely recommend it to anyone, regardless of age or experience with math. I had a lot of fun, and I absolutely think my knowledge of mathematics enhanced, not diminished, my appreciation for museum content.
In my mind, there are a number of reasons why MoMATH is important, and why it should be a cornerstone of any trip to New York:
- I’m a huge fan of museums of science, but I think it’s a good thing to have a museum just for mathematics. There is something unique to mathematics, a certain drive towards understanding beyond the world, that an appreciation for science, in all its glory, cannot muster.
- MoMATH in particular is engineered in a way that’s accessible to people of all ages. The activities and exhibits themselves are clearly designed for children — with the exception of the art exhibit Composite, which is clearly designed for a more critical audience, and the “puzzle cafe,” for which adult patience and/or guidance is essential — but each has a nearby computer display with an easy-to-understand explanation including more advanced mathematics.
- People, especially young children, deserve the chance to experience math in the right way — by exploring patterns and structure in the world for themselves, not by learning arithmetic by rote. And if that experience can’t be effected in the classroom just yet, what better place than a museum dedicated to generating it?
Have any of you guys been to MoMATH? What’d you think? How about anyone who hasn’t been yet — what are your thoughts? Do you think mathematics is something you can capture, at least in part, in a museum?