New York City families have a brand-new interactive and educational spot to explore: the Museum of Mathematics. Located in a sleek 19,000-square-foot space across from Madison Square Park, MoMath is the only cultural institution devoted to math in all of North America. At the museum's creative hands-on attractions, elementary and middle-schoolers can experience math in action and also see how math factors into our daily lives. While Jersey City has the Liberty Science Center and Queens has the New York Hall of Science, there really is nothing else like MoMath in Manhattan. It gets kids genuinely excited about math—not always an easy thing to do!
The two-floor museum features 30 interactive experiences that immerse visitors in mathematical concepts in unexpected ways. No boring flash cards or times tables here. Instead, kids can ride on Coaster Rollers or the Square-wheeled Trike, and manipulate the fantastic paraboloid sculpture String Product. Regardless of your child's (or your) math abilities, the Museum of Mathematics consistently engages and surprises visitors.
Ever since my son and I saw MoMath's carnival-style Math Midway at the World Science Festival Street Fair a few years back, we've been excited to see the brick-and-mortar Museum of Math open its doors. The founders have said that they want visitors of all ages to see math the same way they do, as something colorful, engaging, beautiful and fun. I think they totally hit the mark! Kids are going to love this place and I already foresee repeat visits in my family's future.
Out of the 30 permanent hands-on attractions, I had many favorites. Learn about multiplication by playing with the String Product, a beautiful interactive sculpture filled with colorful and movable strings that show the product of various problems. Play with fractals by creating repeating images at the Human Tree. Explore the relationship between math and music in the Harmony of the Spheres. Find out why a ride on bumpy balls feels so smooth on Coaster Rollers. Race cars down different downhill angles at the Tracks of Galileo or take the Square-wheeled Trike for a spin.
Kids can enjoy open-ended play at various stations. The Enigma Cafe is filled with dozens of puzzles and other mind benders. The Structure Studio has a changing assortment of pieces that kids can use to build 3D geometric shapes. The light-up floor at the Math Square has a motion censor and is also programmed with games, patterns and simulations. And at the Mathenaseum sculpture studio, kids can work on virtual 3D designs and print them out on a 3D printer.
While MoMath offers hours of stimulating play, it's definitely not a traditional children's museum. It isn't a place for toddlers to run amok (hence no stroller parking or diaper-changing station in the bathroom). And since visitors need to grasp basic mathematical concepts, preschoolers probably won't get much out of a trip here, although they might get a kick out of dancing on the Math Square alongside their older siblings. I'd say 6 to 12 is the ideal age range.
Of course, the Museum of Mathematics plans to offers lots of special programming to complement its exhibits, including camps, after-school classes and clubs. The offerings are currently being developed so check the website for updates, although I'm sure we'll be covering them here.
The Museum of Mathematics is located at 11 East 26th Street between Fifth and Madison Avenues. Admission is $15 for adults and $9 for children ages 2 to 12.
Read about other must-see NYC museums for kids in our Museum Guide.