Housed in a 19,000-square-foot space across from Madison Square Park in the Flatiron neighborhood of Manhattan, the Museum of Mathematics is the only cultural institution devoted to math in all of North America. At the museum's creative hands-on attractions, kids (and parents!) can 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—through hands-on, nerdy fun.
Read on for what you need to know about checking out this interactive museum, including what age is the sweet spot for a visit. Looking for more STEM fun? Check out our STEM Guide for NYC Kids, with maker spaces and coding classes.
This incredible installation of a hyperboloid gives the perception of being curved but the lines are actually straight.
The two-floor museum offers 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. Regardless of your child's (or your) math abilities, the Museum of Mathematics consistently engages and surprises visitors.
RELATED: Planetariums In or Near NYC Where Families Can Stargaze
Take a square-wheeled bike for a spin.
MoMath visitors might be surprised at just how creative, artistic, and engaging math can be. 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 explore and investigate various stations.
Kids can enjoy open-ended play at various stations. The Enigma Cafe is filled with dozens of puzzles and other mind benders, a spot where puzzle lovers could spend an entire day if they wish. The Structure Studio has a changing assortment of pieces that kids can use to build 3D geometric shapes, while the light-up floor at the Math Square has a motion censor and is also programmed with games, patterns, and simulations.
Exercise both mind and body at such exhibits as Robot Swarm, where kids can don special backpacks to interact with glowing lights; Hoop Curves, where you use algorithms to see if you can sink a 3-pointer; or Motionscape, in which you jump or duck to test the properties of velocity and acceleration.
RELATED: 50 Easy Science Experiments for Kids Using Household Stuff
Dance on the Math Squares, a great activity for kids of all ages. Photo courtesy of MoMath
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. We'd hesitate to bring a child under 6, although younger kids might get a kick out of dancing on the Math Square alongside their older siblings. (Kids ages 2 and under are FREE.) It's great having a space for the big kids, though. The museum even hosts kids-only events like a recent mixer for sixth to ninth graders. There's also an upcoming all-ages Family Fridays event.
Not a lot has changed at the museum since we first visited when it opened in 2012, but the kids continue to enjoy the old favorites like the dance squares and the square trike.
The Museum of Mathematics is Located at 11 East 26th Street between Fifth and Madison Avenues. It's open daily, from 10am to 5pm, including on school holidays and even Christmas Day. It does close at 2:30pm the first Wednesday of every month. The venue also offers a range of special programming, including camps, classes, and special events.
Read about other must-see NYC museums for kids in our Museum Guide.
Top photo of the Structure Studio courtesy of MoMath. Photos by Lisa Johnston for Mommy Poppins, except where noted.
This article first published in 2012, but it has since been updated and revised.