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New Math Museum Hopes to Make Numbers Fun for Kids

By DNAinfo Staff on April 18, 2011 5:44pm  | Updated on April 19, 2011 11:59am

A rendering of what the new museum might look like.
A rendering of what the new museum might look like.
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Courtesy of the Museum of Mathematics

By Jill Colvin

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

MIDTOWN — A new museum is set to open with a lofty goal: convincing kids that math isn't as boring as they think.

The new Museum of Mathematics — or MoMath as it hopes to be called — is set to launch in fall 2012 at 11 E. 26th St. near Madison Square Park.

The new space aims to spark kids' imaginations and convince them the discipline is a lot more fun than rote memorization and long division.

"Americans have a cultural problem where there are a lot of misconceptions about what math is," said former hedge fund manager and math teacher Glen Whitney, who is behind the museum effort. "It's creative. It's innovative. It's just fun and amazing and a wonderful part of the human experience," he said.

A rendering of the exterior of the new museum.
A rendering of the exterior of the new museum.
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Courtsy of the Museum of Mathematics

The design of the 19,000 square-foot exhibit space will be based on a science center, featuring 50 to 60 interactive exhibits and hands-on experiences.

One, called "feedback fractals," will allow museum-goers to manipulate a video image of themselves. Another, called "Ring of Fire," uses lasers to demonstrate shapes hidden inside objects — like how a cylinder can be sliced to form a rectangle.

Cindy Lawrence, the museum's chief of operations, said she's watched students with bad attitudes toward math completely turn around after stepping into the exhibit, which is now traveling through the country.

"They really stopped dead in their tracks and said, 'Whoa! This is math?'" she said.

The museum, which will have an operating budget of about $3 million a year, recently received a $2 million grant from Google to develop the space.

The museum is already offering a "Math Encounters" lecture series featuring prominent mathematicians, such as an origami artist who talked about the relationship between art and math.

The area is also home to another creative museum, the Museum of Sex.