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Monday, June 15, 2009

Math Midway

A Math Midway - what a wonderful concept - "an interactive, hands-on tour of a variety of exciting and surprising mathematical ideas, principles, games, and activities. The individual exhibits within the show will will be presented with a midway/carnival style, and generally concern mathematics related to an event or activity you can find in a typical carnival, fair, or circus setting."
The exhibits had clever names and tag lines such as the Mysterious Harmonigraph - be hypnotized by "Harmonics; Organ Function Grinder - Make Math the Most of your mind"; "Universal Wheel of Chance - Do you think the odds are even?"; "Ring of Fire - Illuminate the secret shapes within"; "Mathematical Monkey Mat - It's so great to tessellate"; and the huge centerpiece to the street midway - "Pedal on the Petals - There's a road for every wheel!", where children rode tricycles with square wheels on a circular track with catenary curves - the combination giving a smooth ride. With the Organ Function Grinder you "Grab a number ticket, set the three dials, and create your own function. Each step of the function transforms your number. Can you hear the transformations in the music, too? Turn the crank to compute your value and hear your tune."
The Math Midway was beautifully put together in a weaving of colors, demonstrations, performances, signs, brochures, ideas and people.
The Math Midway was part of the World Science Festival Street Fair, which was held Sunday, June 14 around Washington Square. This was the last day of the 2nd annual World Science Festival, a five-day science extravaganza with programs scheduled throughout the city. The festival was an immediate success its first year, with sold out events. Participants not only included science luminaries and Nobel laureates, but also stars of theatre, music, dance, film, journalism and the media. The opening gala at Lincoln Center featured the likes of YoYo Ma, Joshua Bell, Alan Alda, Michael Hogan and Glenn Close. Co-founder Brian Greene is a Professor of Physics and Mathematics at Columbia University. He is recognized for a number of groundbreaking discoveries in superstring theory. His books are widely read: The Elegant Universe, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.
Our mission is to cultivate and sustain a general public informed by the content of science, inspired by its wonder, convinced of its value, and prepared to engage with its implications for the future. From the WSF website:

The World Science Festival, an unprecedented annual tribute to imagination, ingenuity and inventiveness, takes science out of the laboratory and into the streets, theaters, museums, and public halls of New York City, making the esoteric understandable and the familiar fascinating.

This was a huge event - for more information, see their website here and the Math Midway website here.
I would suggest putting this on your calendar for next year and getting tickets for ... well in advance.

Full Disclosure - Much like the investment advisor who must disclose their holdings, I must confess a love of science and particularly math, which was my favorite subject in school :)


An Honest Man said...

Maths was also my subject and anything that tries to demystify and popularize it is to be welcomed.

Great photos.

Mary said...

Your post left me understanding more than a visit to the site Sunday. I checked out the featured activities with your link. Didn't quite understand the monkey mat principle.

I wonder if I would have understood it if math was presented this way when I was a child. At this point I'd need a tutor.

Thanks for the post.

Hilda said...

That looks like so much fun! Were adults allowed to play with the games and puzzles too? I wouldn't be able to stop myself if I were there.

If my father were still alive, he'd have been elated by this. He was Chem, not Math, but I feel that his fascination with everything and how he thought that learning was always fun, was his best legacy to me. And I'm sure that many of his students feel the same way.

Thank you for featuring this wonderful, educational event. And for bringing back lovely memories.

Ellen said...

Mary, I agree that in the context of the high-energy street fair, really taking in the math concepts was a bit difficult if you weren't already familiar with them. But I think that in a museum setting, there will be more opportunity to learn the underlying math in all of these exhibits. Meanwhile, from what I could see, on Sunday it seemed that a lot of people had great fun and the exhibition was very enthusiastically received. And, Hilda, yes, absolutely the adults were allowed to play with the games and puzzles too! Along with my kids I had a great time! If you missed the debut at the World Science Festival Street Fair you can go to to find out where the traveling exhibit will go next. They told us there will also be more pictures posted to that site in the coming week.

Paul in LA missing NYC said...

"Pedal on the Petals ... where children rode tricycles with square wheels ... See a video of it here.


Jane said...

Pedal on the Petals video here:

Anonymous said...

The Pedal on the Petals video is on the site and also here:

Anthony said...

Hey everyone, this looked exciting. What were some of your favorite exhibits?