MoMath – perhaps Maths can be fun after all

Polypaint exhibit, MoMath

We’re finally back in New York after a gloriously long stint in the UK.  B’s daycare is open pretty much all year round, but T’s school shuts for a staggering twelve weeks over the summer. It has been quite a challenge to keep her occupied all that time, even with our trip home, and without spending a fortune. (New York is quite extraordinarily expensive – $7 for a tiny punnet of raspberries).

One particularly successful outing was to MoMath – the Museum of Mathematics. Its strap line is “The coolest thing that ever happened to math!”, which I was v skeptical about. But actually, it really was cool. Even for me, who has to sit and concentrate to work out what 18% tip should be.

MoMath entrance
MoMath

The museum is one of the smallest we’ve visited, making it very manageable with younger children. Split over two floors, it’s possible to keep an eye on kids running in different directions (providing they don’t dash for the stairs), and there were plenty of yellow-shirted mathematicians on hand to explain how each exhibit worked. Everything was interactive and designed for curious hands and minds.

T was v taken by a yellow corrugated circle, which you could ride around on a square-wheeled tricycle. The kids bumped around the small track with enormous pride and excitement. The only rule is that you have to wear closed-toe shoes to go on this one.

Square-wheeled tricycle exhibit at MoMath
Square-wheeled tricycles on a rounded road

She also loved ‘Coaster Rollers’, a little coracle boat which she could pull across the ‘water’ made from large acorns with evenly shaped diameters.

Coaster Roller exhibit, MoMath
T loving the Coaster Roller exhibit

My personal favourites were the Human Tree, and Polypaint. The Human Tree was a digital screen that showed successively smaller copies of yourself combined to make you look like a very strange tree. You could choose which season to be in, with leaves, blossom, or snowflakes. Two of you could stand side by side, combining your images to make funny patterns with both your bodies. Our favourite was of hundreds of tiny Ts looking like branches on my tree. So now we both have a basic understanding of fractals – previously limited to that line from ‘Let it Go’ in Frozen.

Polypaint was fascinating. Using what looked like real paint pots and brushes, you could paint on a digital screen to create intricate geometrical patterns. Once you were satisfied with your design, you could project the pattern onto your body to look like an outfit. We spent a long time in this booth.

Polypaint exhibit, MoMath
Learning about symmetrical patterns on the Polypaint exhibit

The Tracks of Galileo exhibit kept T and her friend L happy for quite a while. Two tracks can be infinitely adjusted so that you can race cars down a short ramp. A digital scoreboard helped them see which shapes gave the fastest path down to the bottom. My only reservation on this one is that the cars have to start very high up, so an adult has to stand there to reload the car each time. Little stools would be useful here.

I really liked the way each exhibit encouraged both thought and creativity, and incorporated both art and music. It didn’t matter if the kids (or the adults, ahem) didn’t fully grasp the mathematical principle behind each display, you could still have a lot of fun playing and exploring. I think this is a fantastic introduction to maths for kids aged two and up, and a really good, educational yet fun day out. Definitely worth a visit.

Rhythms of Life exhibition, piecing together fractions to make music
Rhythms of Life exhibit, piecing together fractions to make music

Tips if you’re planning your own visit:

  • MoMath is located at 11 East 26th Street, between Fifth & Madison Avenues. It’s open from 10am to 5pm, seven days a week, 364 days a year. Closed on Thanksgiving Day, and shuts at 2.30pm on the first Wednesday of every month
  • This is a great option if you have several children of different ages, as the museum is small enough to keep an eye on them at different exhibits. You can also see the whole thing in a morning, avoiding what my uncle used to call ‘museum dropsy’, when any longer than two hours in a museum makes you want to burst into tears
  • Ticket prices are reasonable for New York – Under 2s go free, 2-12 year olds cost $9, and adults cost $15
  • There’s an open plan, unlocked room where you can park buggies and dump heavy backpacks… at your own risk, of course
  • There are baby changing facilities downstairs
  • Madison Square Park has a playground directly opposite, great for letting off steam after such heavy concentration at MoMath
  • There’s no onsite cafe (the Enigma Cafe exhibit’s name slightly misleading), so head outside for snacks or lunch. We walked a couple of blocks to our favourite BBQ place, Blue Smoke on East 27th Street, which is very child-friendly indeed (kids get to decorate their own piggy cookie which is then baked during the meal – fabulous)

This week’s Highs & Lows: 

Highs:

  • Getting to meet my brand new, blue-eyed nephew, born just a few days before we had to fly back to the States. It would have been excruciating to miss the birth – it can be tough being so far from family at times like these
  • Settling back into our New York lives with a sigh of relief. It’s good to get the girls back into a routine again after almost seven weeks away in the UK
  • Finally, not quite a high, but a sobering thought – coming to America with a handshake from the guy at immigration. With so many displaced people trying to reach Europe and America these days, we’ve been feeling so incredibly lucky to be able to travel freely with our children between the two. It’s a blessed life we lead

Lows:

  • The smells on New York’s streets at the tail end of summer. Dog wee slowly evaporating on the sidewalk at 32 degrees celcius. Bin juice simmering in the garbage bags heaped on corners, waiting for collection
  • T’s school is still on vacation. Why is it necessary to give kids 12 weeks off in the summer?? But it does explain why Summer Camp is such a big deal in American movies
  • B’s potty training still drags on.  Yesterday alone she did two poos and three wees in her clothes. This is when I really miss having my own washing machine – find myself handwashing her clothes first before sending them out to Wash & Fold

Author: Alex

Hello. Toddling Round New York is my own little blog of our family's experience of moving young kids from London to New York... And of having a baby out here. They are my own baby steps of exploring this incredible city. I lived in five countries in four continents growing up, so you'd think I'd be good at this by now. Here you'll find stories and photographs of our adventures, the highs and the lows of expat parenthood, and some ideas I hope you'll find useful if you're in New York with young kids.

2 thoughts on “MoMath – perhaps Maths can be fun after all”

  1. We loved mo math when we visited, it’s quite amazingly visual for Maths I thought. Right now i would readily swap 32 degrees for 15! Enjoy your late summer x

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