The hands-on maths discovery centre MathsCity in Leeds is branching out into adults-only evening events! This is in addition to their current programme of drop-in activities and family events, which already includes plenty of half-term and summer holiday activities for kids and families.
Many other museums and science centres offer adult ‘Lates’ events already, and the hope for MathsCity is to attract a wider audience and give adults a chance to experience the centre’s interactive space without kids present, so they can feel free to engage with it in their own way. The first event is an evening workshop on Wednesday 18th October, which will involve me (our very own Katie Steckles) and science illustrator Hana Ayoob, running a maths/art workshop called Shape and Symmetry (details below).
We spoke to maths/museums expert Tom Briggs, who believes this kind of event is exactly what more museums and cultural institutions need to help raise the profile of maths.
“One reason that people often give me for their dislike of maths is ‘I’m an arty person, not a mathsy person.’ This is a commonly believed but entirely false dichotomy, and an activity like Katie and Hana’s doesn’t merely tell people it’s not true; it allows them to experience it for themselves. I’ve long been guilty of saying things like ‘I can’t draw’ and ‘I just don’t *get* art,’ but I’ve gradually come to the realisation that my interest in maths gives me a lens through which I can interact with and enjoy art. I’m absolutely convinced that the same thing is possible in the other direction.”
Tom’s research, which investigated the potential for taking part in mathematics via museum learning programmes to improve participants’ attitudes to maths, supported the idea that school trips to museums to do maths activities had the potential to change attitudes (towards maths) of participating students for the better, at least in the short term. “I’ve experienced similar effects when delivering maths-focused activities to family and adult groups via museums, too.”
As Tom pointed out, “Solutions to the problem of widespread cultural negativity towards mathematics always seem to start with ‘maths teachers need to…’ but there are two key problems with this: 1. It’s not just children who exhibit negativity, so how will only targeting children help? And 2. If we want to encourage people to read more, do we tell the only person who is exposing them to books that it’s up to them to make reading more fun? People (not just children) need to experience maths somewhere other than schools, because at the moment many of them think that’s the only place it happens.”
The Shape and Symmetry workshop will take place on Wednesday 18th October at 7pm BST – tickets for the workshop are £8, and include entry to MathsCity for a couple of hours before the workshop so attendees can have exclusive access and explore the space, then settle down for a guided workshop session afterwards.
James Grime, who works with MathsCity, said on Twitter: “If this is a success, we will do more events for adults. So, [I] want it to be a success. Let people know.” Please do!
Eventbrite page for Shape & Symmetry Workshop
Katie’s Tweet about the workshop / Katie’s Mastodon Toot about the workshop