Instrumented Interconnecteds Intelligent
May, 10th 2012

by Ioannis (Yannis) N. Miaoulis, president and director of the Museum of Science, Boston

I am delighted that IBM recently launched Minds of Modern Mathematics, the free iPad app that recreates the remarkable 50-foot infographic on the history of math designed by Charles and Ray Eames.

IBM collaborated with the Eameses to develop the richly illustrated timeline for Mathematica: A World of Numbers…and Beyond, an exhibit that opened at the California Museum of Science and Industry (now the California Science Center) in Los Angeles in 1961. Replicas later traveled to the New York World’s Fair and beyond.

Mathematica’s interactive models illustrating basic math concepts have intrigued visitors at the Museum of Science, Boston since 1981. Children like playing with the Celestial Mechanics machine, releasing steel balls into orbits like those of planets around the sun, while a 12-foot-high Probability Board captivates adults, as it sends plastic balls clattering through a maze of steel pins to form a bell-shaped probability curve.  Here is our exhibit:

New York Hall of Science director Eric Siegel called Mathematica “a founding document” of interactive STEM exhibitions.

I agree. Mathematica plays an important role in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education because it conveys the wonder and excitement that mathematicians feel doing what they do. In fact, it reflects the Museum of Science’s own hands-on educational approach. We encourage people to practice the skills that scientists and engineers use, instead of simply learning information.

As the language that supports the activities of science, technology and engineering — mathematics performs a timeless function. The more people understand how the S, T, E, and M of STEM relate to each other, the better.

Today, the NY Hall of Science and the Museum of Science, Boston are the only places Mathematica is on public display. A new iPad app expanding the exhibit’s reach couldn’t come at a better time.

U.S. elementary and secondary school students still lag behind many nations on international math and science assessments. K-12 STEM education has focused more on math and science than technology and engineering. But all four disciplines are important.

Since 2004, the Museum has worked to advance knowledge of STEM by integrating engineering as a new discipline in schools and developing technology exhibits and programs via its National Center for Technological Literacy®. Engineering design skills and concepts can engage students in using their math and science knowledge to solve problems, which can lead to the innovation of technologies. Engaging students in identifying a problem, designing a solution, testing, and improving the design also offers a platform for learning in math, science, English language arts, history and social studies.

Meanwhile, if you can’t visit Mathematica at the NY Hall of Science or the Museum of Science and you would like to explore the impact of mathematics on the world since 1000 AD, I urge you to download the free Minds of Modern Mathematics application and interact with this fascinating timeline in a new way.

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