TOY MUSEUM Grand Opening — Coming April 16, 10am – 7pm!

Lauren SiegelEvents, MuseumLeave a Comment

Exhibit and Activity Design and Production.
SMURF Potion Lab and Probability Experience

How do we design and deliver a Smurf relevant math lesson?

Step 1

Watch a lot of SMURF Videos – MathHappens Intern and University of Texas UTeach Student Michelle Tat spent several hours watching cartoons and generating several pages of lesson ideas that would connect a math to the Smurf Stories.
We picked two. Making Potions, which Papa Smurf does to save the day in many many of the stories, and Jokey’s habit of giving other Smurfs a present to open which is usually a dust bomb, but sometimes flowers or a cake.


The task is to design an interaction that provides an interesting and engaging math experience to visitors of all ages and abilities, and that works well in the space and format of the event. We’ll have staff on hand so the opportunities for questions, conjectures, and guidance are greater than an unstaffed exhibit.

We chose a “potion lab” where by making several potions, converting drops to fractions, and mixing them, visitors will understand a puzzle earliest mentioned by W. W. Rouse Ball in the third, 1896, edition of his book Mathematical Recreations And Problems Of Past And Present Times. The problem is also said to have been a favorite problem of Lewis Carroll who wrote it this way:

“You are given two glasses. One contains 50 tablespoons of milk, the other 50 tablespoons of water. Take one tablespoon of milk and mix it with the water. Now take one tablespoon of the water/milk mixture and mix it with the pure milk to obtain a milk/water mixture. Is there more water in the milk/water mixture or more milk in the water/milk mixture?”

The probability game presents 4 “wrapped” gifts which can have a dust bomb, flowers or a cake. Two of the four gifts is a repeat so the proportions are 2: 1:1. Visitors choose a gift and record results (what they got) which accumulate over time. Visitors are encouraged to return to the table to see how the results are accumulating and to speculate on what is in the packages given that outcomes in the record.
Click through here for a handout that describes the two math activities, the mathematics they explore, and the connections to the Smurfs.


Design and construct the activities at the MAKEATX workshop. This amazing resource provides CO2 lasers, materials on site, and all the secondary tools we need to make our own quality exhibit materials exactly as we design them.

The storage frame for the pieces may help some visitors recall the rearrangement proof for area of circles.
Extension ideas include using Jokey Smurf’s Gift game to explore the “Monty Hall Game”

Step 4 – Set up and Staff

Set up at the Toy Museum — we are ready to go! The exhibit will be staffed by students currently attending the University of Texas UTeach Program. These students are not only well trained in the pedagogy of mathematics education, but they also love math and science. Their expertise and enthusiasm are vital to a successful public experience. And they will be wearing Smurf hats :-). Thank you UTeach!

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