Lessons in science outreach from New York City (Part 1) – MoMath!

Yesterday, I arrived in Brooklyn for a weekend-long reprieve from the communal stress due to final evaluations brimming in the University of Toronto’s social climate. My friend, Angela Chen, a reporter at the Wall Street Journal is graciously hosting me here. We undertook some journeys that further informed my quest for effective science outreach.

Earlier today, I visited the newly-minted Museum of Mathematics in Manhattan. For the most part, the exhibits and activities in the museum are targeted for younger children in elementary school, but there sure are things that could appeal to adults, both in their presentation and their complexity. Take for example, the fractal tree!Image

The fractal tree takes live video images of people and uses their limbs and movements to structure the fractal branches, thereby, illustrating the principle behind fractals. My friends Angela, Jesse and I spent majority of our time exploring such fractal formations, including using multiple people to create more fractals and changing settings for types of trees and seasons. What appealed to me most about the exercise was that it engaged in the concept of fractals in tangible and dynamic way that was far removed from conventional math education. The dynamic element combined some kinaesthetic and visual creativity, and engaging people in those capacities makes them forget momentarily that they were actually manipulating a mathematical model, and its complexity simply became…approachable.

Later, I talked to Angela on her views as a journalist on effective science outreach. More on that later.


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