Dec 15, 2011

Museum of Mathematics open to ideas

When we heard about the new Museum of Mathematics (MoMath) that is being built in New York, a museum that bills itself as “an exciting project that will change the face of American education in mathematics,” we naturally wanted to find out how statistics and probability will be represented…

George Hart is Chief of Content at MoMath. He responded, “We are in the midst of designing exhibits for our Fall 2012 opening and we plan to touch on many areas of mathematics, including probability and statistics. One exhibit concept on our drawing board is related to the Galton board, an exhibit that is probably familiar to your members, in which falling balls hit pins to make a series of independent left and right moves until they collect at the bottom of the exhibit in an approximate Gaussian distribution. In the variation we would like to build, the visitor first draws a probability distribution on a touch screen, then the pins of the exhibit move slightly (under computer control) so that the falling balls now land with the given target distribution. We have some engineering work to make the pin mechanism sufficiently accurate, but it strikes us as an engaging exhibit idea with great potential for getting people to think about probability and statistics. I’d be interested to hear if your readers have ever seen such an adjustable Galton board elsewhere, and if they have suggestions for other exhibits we should include.” Email George at

Artist's rendering of the proposed adjustable Galton Board
Artist’s rendering of the proposed adjustable Galton Board

The Museum of Mathematics is a unique and innovative institution that strives to enhance public understanding and perception of mathematics as an evolving, creative, and aesthetic human endeavor. The Museum has secured space at the north end of Madison Square Park in Manhattan, and it will offer a wide variety of hands-on, interactive exhibits that will spark excitement and wonder in kids and adults of all ages. MoMath will be North America’s only museum devoted to the wonders of mathematics and its many connections.

While the museum’s space is being developed, they are already running several programs promoting math as interesting, exciting, and fun. MoMath’s popular traveling exhibition, the Math Midway, is in the midst of a national and international tour, and the monthly Math Encounters presentation series routinely draws hundreds. The streets of Manhattan provide the perfect setting for inspiring math-themed walking tours, and three of the city’s boroughs will play host to MoMath’s exciting new math tournaments in the spring.

See for more information. And you can help the Museum open its doors by going to

Photo of the exterior of MoMath
Photo of the exterior of MoMath


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