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Hooray for the MoMath!

July 5, 2011

As a kid, I immediately lost all interest in math once my studies extended beyond simple algebra. Why? I blame not understanding how complex math is applied to conceptual real-world situations. The linear progression from algebra to calculus in high school just didn’t add up (pardon the pun).


If only Glen Whitney had built his Math Museum when I was kid, perhaps I would have continued a pursuit of mathematic excellence. That’s right, Mr. Whitney is opening up a Math Museum (aptly called the “MoMath”). According to this New York Times article, “Mr. Whitney, a former math professor who parlayed his quantitative skills into a job at a Long Island hedge fund…quit in late 2008 with connections to deep pockets and a quest to make math fun and cool.”


I believe Mr. Whitney’s Math Museum has the potential to be a game changer. It strikes me as one of those great ideas that seem so obvious, yet for some reason don’t exist. There are literally no math museums in the U.S., and the only one that ever existed in the past closed down in 2006.


But consider how much has changed in the last 5 years – the rise of Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc. has created a culture where brilliant mathematical geeks are considered underground superstars instead of social outcasts. The Social Network, a widely acclaimed film recanting the rise of Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, is proof of just that. America, and the world for that matter, is eagerly waiting for such a Math Museum to pop up. We just haven’t realized it yet.


Science museums, with their dinosaur dioramas and space installations, have been igniting children’s’ imaginations for decades. So why shouldn’t a Math Museum be able to do the same. After all, they rely on the same fundamental premise – the joy of discovery.


As Mr. Whitney states in the New York Times article mentioned above, “There are all sorts of myths about mathematics out there — math is hard, math is boring, math is for boys, math doesn’t matter in real life. All these are cultural myths that we want to blow apart.”


Unfortunately for people like me, Mr. Whitney’s Math Museum didn’t exist a couple of decades ago. But then again, it couldn’t have. When I was younger, we couldn’t have fathomed the cool-factor of applying math to the real world. The next generation of entrepreneurs and world-changers will all be significantly more math-savvy than the previous generation.


Luckily for the ones who don’t have it instilled by their parents at an early age, there will be Math Museums galore to ignite a passion and understanding for conceptual math, which will breed more opportunity for greater achievement by a greater number if individuals.


Hooray for the MoMath!

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