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Math Midway 2 Go: Exhibition at the Bay Area Science Festival and the Cambridge Science Festival

2013
A summative evaluation for a mathematics museum.
National Museum of Mathematics, New York, NY

The National Museum of Mathematics (MoMath) contracted Randi Korn & Associates, Inc. (RK&A) to conduct a summative evaluation of the traveling exhibition Math Midway 2 Go (MM2GO).  RK&A explored the ways in which science festival visitors used the MM2GO exhibition and how the exhibition affected visitors’ ideas and attitudes about mathematics.    

How did we approach this study?

In order to determine how visitors used and perceived the exhibits, RK&A conducted onsite interviews with visitors to the Bay Area Science Festival in San Francisco, CA and the Cambridge Science Festival in Cambridge, MA.  In addition, RK&A conducted follow-up telephone interviews with visitors one month after each festival date in order to identify how visitors’ ideas about math change over time.

What did we learn?

Visitors highly enjoyed MM2GO, and the exhibition was successful in encouraging visitors to view math as fun and enjoyable.  Visitors liked the challenge of figuring out the exhibits and appreciated the creative way that math was presented.  The presence of volunteers further added to visitors’ experiences as volunteers’ presence encouraged visitors to ask questions, look for hints when appropriate, and learn about the mathematical principles behind the exhibits.  When contacted for follow-up telephone interviews a month later, visitors continued to talk positively about their experience at MM2GO.  However, visitors were less able to relate math to their everyday lives or see math as personally relevant. 

What are the implications of the findings?

Findings suggest that MM2GO is an attractive and memorable exhibition at science festivals that encourages visitors to think about math in new ways.  MM2GO’s success in nurturing a positive impression of math comes from the inviting and amusing nature of the exhibition, designed to be interactive, entertaining, provocative, and challenging all at the same time.  On the other hand, MM2GO faces an interesting predicament because of its very unique and unusual approach to math.  The exhibition enables visitors to explore math in a creative environment, a context that is dissimilar to the way visitors view math normally.  Due to this, visitors struggle to see how MM2GO’s fun and exciting version of math might be personally relevant to their daily lives.

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