New Amazeum exhibit turns math into magic

New Amazeum exhibit turns math into magic

Get moving with math? Believe it or not, it’s a thing. The Scott Family Amazeum recently opened an active learning exhibit, “Math Moves! Experiencing Ratio and Proportion,” which contains individual exhibits that allow kids and families to “playfully investigate ratios and proportions by using their bodies and gestures.”

Exhibits include interactive themes such as “shadow fractions,” where kids make shadows with their bodies or other objects to see half, whole and double sizes by moving nearer and farther away from a light source. Kids and adults can also interact with different “partner motion” activities where they move in sync with rhythms and patterns that they can see on a screen. Similarly, another activity allows participants to compare their rate of motion by running parallel to one another while the differences are graphed in front of them. Other exhibits explore frequencies by allowing kids to turn knobs to manipulate sounds and spinning wheels to change rhythms. All together the exhibits give kids a chance to experience abstract concepts in real time.

“We want families to playfully explore the experiences in ‘Math Moves!’ without being constrained by right or wrong answers,” explains Paul Stolt, marketing manager for the Scott Family Amazeum. “That comes later in a formal math class. Our interest is letting children of all ages get hands-on experiences and begin to wonder why when they move this or turn that something happens; or when they place this next to something else, what they notice about the two items.

“As they play, they begin to ask questions about how things work and make connections to things they have experienced in the real world,” he continues. “The process of ‘explore, discover, question and connect’ builds skills that carry kids throughout their lives as they look for creative solutions.”

“I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent at each station! The playful activities had me thinking, moving around, and … at times … out of breath,” enthuses Willard Keirn, who is part of the math faculty at Thaden School. “I appreciate how the stations tie in different ways to see, experience and appreciate the importance of ratios and proportional reasoning.”

Even children who aren’t dealing with complex math concepts like frequencies have something to gain from the exhibit.

“When kids have ownership over how they experience learning in an exhibit like ‘Math Moves!,’ they approach the activities in a way that makes sense to them. Play is a powerful tool for building muscle memory,” Stolt explains. “For example, when a child plays with an exhibit that scales to a grid, they hear, see and physically make proportions and [then] begin to understand the relationship between sizes, parts and wholes. Later in a classroom setting, they might do something similar, and they remember the activity.”

Teachers can replicate some of the concepts from the exhibits in their classrooms.

“Moving kids from additive to multiplicative thinking is an important development at a young age, and this exhibit can help with such growth,” Keirn suggests. “All the stations I experienced had [their] own way of helping with this progress and could easily be transitioned into the classroom setting. One station uses weights and fulcrums, which could easily be reproduced in a science or math classroom. Several stations used shadows to help understand ratios, proportions and scale factor, which could be easily done in the classroom. Another station used blocks to help understand proportions and scale factor, which helps an educator demonstrate how proportions can be viewed in a geometry classroom, too.

“One of my favorite stations was trying to replicate specific graphs based on your movement. Trying to replicate these graphs while also understanding the correlation between distance and time could also be translated into a classroom setting with the right materials,” Keirn adds.

The exhibit could aid in helping both children and parents to better understand math concepts, especially since the methods of teaching math have shifted over the last decade, changes compounded by distance learning.

“As a former teacher, I understand the struggle parents face in supporting their children in learning math, especially as more of the responsibility fell upon them as remote learning became the norm,” Stolt says. “As math instruction moved from rote learning and memorization to a more flexible process with numerous options for finding solutions, everything about math appeared different for parents.

“The process of following specific steps to the correct answer was replaced by multiple ways to approach solving a problem,” he goes on. “Multiple approaches to what is (for parents) a simple solution can be frustrating, but leads kids to question, test, try, and discover how numbers, fractions, ratio and proportion are connected. This ultimately provides for greater understanding of math. When kids and parents experience the exhibits in ‘Math Moves!’ together, they begin to see how math is not a collection of memorized processes, but a connected set of disciplines that help make sense of the world.”

“Math can have a negative connotation with so many people, which I feel has compounded the struggle for parents since most of them would agree that they never experienced math in a different and meaningful setting,” Keirn agrees. “This exhibit provides parents such an opportunity for their kids, which then allows parents to have those meaningful conversations with their kids about math. The hands-on activities allow kids to have fun, make mistakes, and try something different in hopes to also see how math moves all around us like in the music we listen to, the shadows we cast, the blocks we play with, and science we see every day that makes the world go round.

“As a math teacher, it’s always my hope that students see the importance of math and use it to create a brighter future, and this exhibit can do just that by introducing math in a fun and meaningful way for both kids and their parents.”

The exhibit will be part of the Amazeum indefinitely and is presented in English and Spanish. Access to “Math Moves!” is included in daily admission to the Amazeum.



‘Math Moves!’

WHEN — Indefinitely; hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday & Wednesday-Saturday; 1-5 p.m. Sunday

WHERE — Scott Family Amazeum in Bentonville

COST — $10 for kids 2 and older


Categories: Family Friendly