A tricycle with square wheels can’t be pedaled, right? Well, sometimes it can. As math whizzes already know, it depends on the surface on which the wheels are traveling. Those wheels probably wouldn’t do any good on Kennedy Blvd., but put them on a rippled surface, and they’re good to go.
Anyone who doubts this can trek over to Math Midway, Liberty Science Center’s latest exhibit on display through Jan. 22, 2012.
Through this traveling exhibition, children get to learn about mathematical concepts through fun activities and games. The hope is to show kids that math doesn’t have to be any harder or less interesting than art class or playing a sport.
‘A lot of people don’t see the fun side of math.’ – Elizabeth Romanaux
“The Liberty Science Center is increasingly focused on what’s been called ‘STEM,’ which is science, technology, engineering, and mathematics,” said Paul Hoffman, the center’s newly-appointed president and CEO. “I actually prefer to call it ‘STEAM.’ I prefer science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics, because I see all of these as part of a larger whole. Science often deals with important things that are too small or too far away for us to see – for example, subatomic quarks that are the building blocks of matter, or planets that exist way beyond our solar system. We need artists to help us grasp these things. And we need artists to interpret mind-blowing scientific ideas like the notion of parallel universes. In writing, science fiction has led many children to become physicists.”
Math Midway opened to the public on Friday.
Mathematics in your hands
“A lot of people don’t see the fun side of math,” said Elizabeth Romanaux, senior communications consultant at Liberty Science Center. “We really want kids and parents to see the colorful, interesting, and engaging side of math. So, Math Midways has a lot of hands-on activities.”
Among the cool attractions included in Math Midway is the harmonograph, adjustable weighted wires that swing in different directions, depending on how the weights are positioned. To give children a sense of how the weights affect the movement of the wire, they can put paper under the harmonograph and attach a marker to the weights, then see the patterns made by different weight proportions.
The exhibit’s Wheel of Chance – in which kids select three cards, then spin a wheel in an attempt to match it to their chosen cards – teaches the likelihood of winning the lottery.
Math Midway, located in Liberty Science Center’s 7,000 square foot traveling exhibition gallery, includes about 10 to 12 interactive activities that teach logic, probability, functions, and other mathematical concepts.
And, yes, the exhibit includes the aforementioned tricycle with square wheels, which youngsters can ride over a curved plane.
“You see kids getting down to explore, to examine the surface afterwards, trying to figure out how that works,” Romanaux said. “One man I was talking to the other day said that after his son tried out the tricycle he found his son online doing research, trying to find out why that was possible.”
‘Part of our lives’
Liberty Science Center is one of four museums that over the next 20 months will host Math Midway, an exhibit created by the Museum of Mathematics in New York.
Romanaux said the exhibit will likely be appropriate for most elementary or high school-age children and takes about 90 minutes to get through, depending on the child’s interest level or attention span.
“We do math automatically all day long as part of our lives,” Romanaux noted. “How many miles [per] gallon do I get if I go this speed, or that speed? Or, if you’re trying to get a mortgage, or refinance your mortgage …We want kids to really embrace and understand math, because they’re going to live a better life if they’re economically savvy.”
After school hours and non-holiday weekends are the best times to experience Liberty Science Center, said Romanaux, because there are fewer guests during those times.
Liberty Science Center, at 222 Jersey City Blvd., is open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. The center is closed on Mondays. The admission fee is $11.50 for children ages 2 through 12 and seniors ages 62 and over. Guests ages 13 to 62 pay an admission price of $15.75. Academic K-12 teachers can get in for $5, with identification. Liberty Science Center members and children under the age of two get in for free.
E-mail E. Assata Wright at email@example.com.