Austin Museum Day 2020

Lauren SiegelWe think math is fun!Leave a Comment

Austin Museum Day is going to feature an all day program on facebook plus virtual offerings you can access anytime and there are a number of Austin locations that will be open to visit!

MathHappens is staying virtual this year, but we are starting a new list of great ways to think about math connections at Austin Museums.  These locations will be open for on site visits so they are are great place to start a math tour:

Bullock Texas State History Museum 
1800 Congress Ave. Austin, (512) 936-4036,

How can a 54 foot vessel cross the Atlantic powered by wind, and guided by navigation instruments that run on gravity and starlight?  With the help of mathematicians!
The equipment for navigation in 1685 when La Belle sailed was designed and made by mathematicians. Click on links for a short video featuring our models.

  • Nocturnal  – One of the most remarkable items found on LaBelle that is unfortunately not at the Bullock Museum.  It was tested and verified accurate at Texas A&M University.
    • Navigational tool used to tell time at night. You set a date, choose either the Little Dipper or Big Dipper, and point the nocturnal at the North Star to find the time. 
  • Quadrant – sailors used this tool to find their latitude out at sea. Check out this link to learn more about quadrants or contact us here to get a quadrant kit to make your own quadrant! 
  • Mercator Map – our maps are distorted so that countries farther from the equator seem larger than they actually are. Watch this stereographic shell projection that shows what happens when a sphere is distorted into a flat projection!
  • Shadow puppet theater – a demonstration that shows that the moon is round

Jourdan Bachman Pioneer Farms
10621 Pioneer Farms Drive, (512) 837-1215,
Facebook: @PioneerFarms Twitter: @PioneerFarms Instagram: @pioneerfarms_

  • Land Surveying in the 1800s: the creative ways early Texas surveyors tried to measure Texas
    • Apply here to work at the survey office! These interactive cards include four scenarios that can be played out by two people, one as the job applicant and the other as the surveyor office. 
    • Make a survey wheel (a circle with diameter 3.82” or radius 1.91”) or print here. Then calibrate the wheel by rotating it along a ruler and marking off the inches.
    • Find the area of this irregular plot of land. Hint: divide into triangles.
    • Legacy of the Vara – Creuzbaur Essay on the merits of the Chain and Vara measurement systems in Texas


Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center 9 am – 5pm  (with reservations.)
4801 La Crosse Avenue, (512) 232-0100, ​
Facebook​: @wildflowercenter ​Instagram:​ @wildflowercenter     Twitter​: @Wildflowerctr

  • Tree measuring – quadrants can be used to measure tree heights as well! This link has more information about how to measure trees using quadrants, and contact us here to request a kit to make your own quadrant! 
  • If you don’t have a quadrant, go on a Fibonacci search.  These numbers show very often in growing things.  Look for 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 18, 21 and so on.  
  • You can also look for voronoi patterns (think about irregular regions in cracked mud, or the pattern on a giraffe–you can find that same pattern in reptile skin and dragonfly wings and more.

Neill-Cochran House Museum
2310 San Gabriel Street, (512) 478-2335, ​
Facebook:​ @nchmuseum ​Instagram​: @neillcochran

  • Pythagorean Tables
    • 3 tables of dimensions 3×3, 4×4, 5×5 prove the Pythagorean Theorem when their edges are put together to form a triangle
    • 5×5 table shows a “proof without words” that the sum of the odd numbers is the square numbers.  How do we see this?  The table has dots (cupcake sized) and some etchings.  Decode the groups formed by the etchings-the first dot in the corner is separated from the rest, then 3 dots are added to make a 2×2, then 5 more dots to get a 3×3 and so on… check it out!
    • The other two tables are a chess/checker board, and an infinite step.

Find more in this Guide.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *