"Including Mathematical ideas can enhance and support your Exhibits and Programs"
Informal Education Programs
Math connections that align with your primary mission can help you provide the public with a greater quality of experiences. Is Math simply missing from your STEM or STEAM programs? Whether you highlight just the mathematics relevant to your programming, or create a space for a mathematical playground, the visitor experience is enhanced. Mathematics activities can offer ways to:
- Inspire the Imagination
- Learn through Play
- Make abstract ideas concrete
- Deepen Understanding
- Learn as a family
- Affirming your guests as a Community with group projects
MathHappens Math Rooms
- A simple space with interactive math models, activities and displays. 4 - 5 tables, a small carpeted area, some chairs and a storage area are the basic requirements.
- We provide models and activities that are our own designs, or created by colleagues and proven successful with students, families and learners of all ages.
- Make and take. Our programs include an opportunity to make, design and personalize a mini project to take home.
- Always free. We provide the compensation for facilitators, materials and models, and take home supplies.
- Our goal is for your visitors to have a good mathematical experience that will inspire them to learn more and inspire them to return.
MathHappens at the Austin Nature and Science Center, Austin TX.
The Austin Nature and Science Center is own by the City of Austin and is part of our system of Parks. The facility includes a rescue zoo, dino pit, ponds, nature trails, a visitor center and education buildings. Collaborations with MathHappens include installation of a Human Sunclock where your shadow tells the time, a permanent exhibit on the Golden Ratio like the one provided to Mecklenberg County, NC (see below) and a Math Room open on weekends, Saturdays 9-3 and Sundays 12 - 3. Visitors of all ages, from the local community as well as tourists come to enjoy the puzzles, games, activities and exhibits.
Follow this link for Austin Nature and Science Center MathHappens Room Contents and Catalog
MathHappens at Explora in Albuquerque, NM
Explora is a science museum of national renown and the premier museum serving the Albuquerque community. It includes interactive exhibits in every STEM field and hosts community events of all kinds. The MathHappens space inside Explora offers visitors a chance to interact with a range of unique materials similar to those at Austin Nature and Science Center and engage with our staff of educators from University of New Mexico. The space is open on Saturdays from 10-2. Visitors of all ages, from the local community as well as tourists come to enjoy the puzzles, games, activities and exhibits. Once a month there is a math festival at the museum as well.
Link to list of Activities and Reference Models For MathHappens @ Explora!
MathHappens at The Millennium in Austin, TX
The Millenium Youth Entertainment Complex is owned by the City of Austin and provides low cost entertainment, skating, bowling and an arcade for young people on the city's east side. It a great facility for events birthday parties and a place to escape the Texas heat. In summer 2023 MathHappens @ Breakthrough Austin partnered to supply and staff a mathematics playground. Staff from Breakthrough are college students who are the first in their families to pursue an advanced degree. Supplied with MathHappens' proven models, interactive displays, games and entertaining demonstrations the project is an opportunity to showcase ways math can be fun, entertaining and engaging for all ages. The space is open every Thursday and Saturday from noon - 6pm!
MathHappens at The Children's Museum of Southern Minnesota
The Children's Museum of Southern Minnesota (https://www.cmsouthernmn.org/) is a popular destination for families in this small city 90 minutes south of Minneapolis. Their motto is PLAY and our math activities area fits right in. The space is open every Saturday 12-4, Sunday 12-4 and Thursday from 3-7pm.
How we make relevant math connections in unique environments.
- Learn as much as we can about the institution, its mission and goals.
- Work to understand the experience you want to provide for your visitors
- Note and notice the parameters and constraints that affect implementation of your educational programs.
- Find and understand the meaningful interesting math concepts that relate to your program.
- Offer suggestions, ideas, materials, models, and even teacher facilitators for on site events so that your visitors have a good experience with the math, and an enhanced appreciation for your exhibit.
Mathematics can be a big or small part of your program. An outreach activity can last for a few hours, days or years. Permanent installations like outdoor sculptures or durable exhibits offer guests valuable opportunities to revisit over time. There are many options. See the section on Math Rooms if you are interested in offering a curated, staffed space.
Mecklenburg County NC Parks and Recreation
What we learned: Mecklenburg County Environmental Education Manager Alice Chambers liked the materials she saw on a visit with colleagues at the Austin Nature and Science Center. She and her staff are interested in presenting mathematics concepts as part of their new STEM initiative. They would like to offer more and they are interested in collaborating with us by testing displays and offering feedback. Alice sent us a list of the items she liked and we made them for her. As of July 31, 2017 we have shipped the following items and are looking forward to feedback from her staff as they plan programs for a new nature center. The items and use are listed here
Historic Oakwood Cemetery, Austin Texas
What we learned: Cemeteries are full of numbers, dates, and all kinds of connections to the actuarial sciences. They also offer poetry, history, and a personal connection to the past. At this place, the focus of the conservators is preservation, conservation and respectful fundraising to address the tilting of the monuments caused by unstable soil, tree roots and simply age.
MathHappens: We designed a plumbline with degree angles in a skull and crossbones motif to coordinate with an October fundraiser. We gave visitors the plumb lines and invited them to understand the conservators problem first hand, to consider how the conservators might measure the scope of the problem throughout the cemetery, by identifing the monuments that are at risk, and collecting data to identify the ones that are shifting the most across time. Finally we ask visitors to consider what they might recommend as a conservation plan given a limited budget.
International Parking Day, San Marcos Texas
What we learned: Parking Day means a town assigns a parking space in the square to anyone who applies. Approved applicants can install their project in an assigned space for a day. The event is coordinated, publicized and promoted by the town. Visitors can circulate past the parking spaces and interact with exhibitors.
MathHappens: We provided a walking activity where you go around cones arranged in a polygon (triangle, square, pentagon) and “discover” that regardless of the number of cones - how many sides in a polygon, the sum of the exterior angles is 360. Our cones were appropriate to the setting and we were able to engage interested visitors. By choosing to spend time with us, visitors had a better experience than most students in school where they have to attend math class. We gave out protractors at this event.
Austin Toy Museum Grand Opening.
What we learned: The Austin Toy Museum is a new museum featuring a collection of action figures, toys and arcade games primarily from the mid 1980s and 1990s. The founders were interested in attracting families and school groups and hope to be a destination for kids of all ages. UTeach intern Michelle Tat spent several hours touring the museum while under construction. After some consideration of the various collections and their potential for math connections, she decided to focus on the Smurf collection. She reviewed several hours of Smurf cartoons and developed a menu of math programming relating to the Smurf world and storylines.
MathHappens: For the opening we focused on Papa Smurfs potions and on Jokey Smurf’s gift giving. We were able to relate the potions to a classic problem involving liquids transferred from one container to the other sometimes called the “Milk and Tea” puzzle. Since Jokey Smurf gives gifts which might be flowers, a cake, or a dust bomb we were able to reframe this as a "choice problem. The classic Monty Hall problem involves 3 curtains and fit perfectly with the three gifts. We made demonstration models of the problems out of wood at the MakeATX laser Coop, and had a lot of fun wearing Smurf hats while staffing the opening.
Little Free Library
What we learned: The Little Free Library is a non profit organization that provides materials to construct a free library for homeowners. The libraries are free and passersby can take or leave books. The organization runs promotions to help engage potential librarians and were interested in a math book donation for Pi Day.
MathHappens: We donated 250 copies of Thinking Physics by Lewis Carroll Epstein purchased at better than retail price through the University of Texas Coop bookstore. The books were sent distributed by Little Free Library. Interest in the books was far greater than anticipated and we sent an additional 150 copies
What we learned: The Dionysium Show is a quarterly evening entertainment variety program in the style of a club devoted to intellectual topics that takes place in a movie theater that serves food and drink. Challenge was to do meaningful math engaging both individuals and the group who are in a theater sitting in the dark, unable to write notes do calculations or interact in small groups.
MathHappens: To create a participatory element, we played the Birthday Game by recording birthdays (day/month) of attendees as they arrived and gave prizes (books) to twins. We also handed out the “coin trick” (a challenge to pass a quarter through a hole in a bit of paper that is the size of a dime) which was a favorite of Lewis Carroll who was known to offer puzzles to dinner companions even in formal settings.
Thinkery Adult Evening Program on Math
What we learned: The Thinkery were expecting as many as 500 participants who would be drinking beer and circulating among offerings from various organizations. Social games were of particular interest to organizers as this was offered as a mixer for young adults. The Birthday Game via name tags encourages participants to look at each other’s tags and offers a fun way to engage with new people. Math topics that offered insights to current events or decision making were of particular interest to organizers.
MathHappens: With the success of Dionysium show Birthday Game we decided to play on a larger scale. It was a big success and a lot of fun. Twins bonded, took a photo in the booth adjacent to our table, and formed a kind of community of twins. Each twin received a copy of the book Thinking Physics by Lewis Carroll Epstein, a great example of applied math. At our tables we offered visitors: a Lewis Carroll puzzle paradox 64=65 from the recent Harry Ransom Center exhibit, a model and explanation of gerrymandering, and an opportunity to participate in and a real time data collection of the Monty Hall choice game. Many participants returned to see the accumulated outcome!