T.C.C.S. Students Roll-up Their Sleeves with some Math
By Paul Bonney
On October 4th, 5th and 6th grade students from Teaneck Community Charter School (T.C.C.S) got to experience a lot of “hands on” fun at the National Museum of Mathematics (also known as “MoMATH”) located at 11 East 26th Street in Manhattan.
“I liked it because it was hands on” said Chanty M., a sixth grader. “It was cool that we got to learn about geometrical shapes in different ways.”
The National Museum of Mathematics, which received its official charter from the New York State Department of Education on November 17, 2009, believes that “Mathematics illuminates the patterns that abound in our world.” According to their website, the museum’s “dynamic exhibits and programs will stimulate inquiry, spark curiosity, and reveal the wonders of mathematics.”
The key component of the T.C.C.S.’s charter and mission statement is “experiential learning,” so the one-of-a-kind National Museum of Mathematics provided the ideal venue for a field trip.
“I was excited about this field trip because we have never gone to a math museum before,” said Alice Yoon, 5th and 6th grade mathematics teacher at T.C.C.S. “It is not easy to find a field trip that allows for tactile learners to practice math concepts.”
All the exhibits are “hands on” which appeals to a child’s natural curiosity. Some of the students, and even the chaperones, enjoyed the exhibit called “Square-Wheeled Trike.” This exhibit featured a circular, but ridged, track which allows for movement of various-sized square wheels on a tricycle. Students were reminded to slow down, while others looked on in wonder at how a square wheel actually worked. Students who tried it were amazed at how the ride was so smooth.
“I liked riding on the square-wheeled tricycle,” said Chanty M. “It was interesting to see that a tricycle could have square wheels and still move.”
Another exhibit that students enjoyed was called “Coaster Rollers.” Students were able to smoothly glide around on a flat, clear coaster over acorn and other lumpy shaped “stones” by pulling themselves with ropes.
In a separate session for breakout groups, Museum Education Coordinator Zandra Vinegar introduced the students to code-breaking, before even introducing herself! She first showed students a basic shift pattern of encoding and had students decode the first puzzle. After around 5 minutes was spelled on various students papers “M-S.-V-I-N-E-G-A-R” based off a basic 14 “character shift,” as it is called.
After explaining the importance for code-breaking in the world, namely the world of computers and banking, Ms. Vinegar allowed students to complete another code to find the secret “gold” in the room. The puzzle, a different type of shift, eventually led students to the word “rhombus.” Students who completed the code correctly were instructed to draw a rhombus on their papers, and Ms. Vinegar placed a gold stamp star in the middle.
“I liked it because we learned how to hack different codes,” expressed sixth grader Hibah S. “They taught us about different code breaking,” she continued. “We had to break a couple codes the teacher gave us.”
The museum has two floors of “hands on” math activities, where students were busy trying their hands at all the various math activities. Students walked “Math Square” which is a floor that changes shapes. They made their bodies into “trees” on a video screen in an exhibit called “Human Tree,” and even completed puzzles on a magnetic wall with various shapes like dinosaurs, monkeys and rhombi at the exhibit called “Tessellation Station”.
If students wanted to roll-up their sleeves again and enjoy more of the activities after they got home, they could simply log onto the website http://momath.org/ to find more fun math extension activities.