“I never knew math could be this fun!”
Aaliyah Bryant, a fifth-grader at Village East Elementary, was thoroughly enjoying math during a visit to a traveling version of the National Museum of Mathematics, known as MoMath, which is located in New York City. She was one of 15 students in the “Engaging our Girls” group from Village East who got to visit the mobile museum when it stopped in Centennial during the second week of November.
The students found a carnival-like atmosphere on the “Math Midway 2Go,” a room filled with magical math activities. There was the “Ring of Fire,” which featured a laser light that was invisible until the students placed a solid object in its path. Then beautiful and sometimes surprising cross sections appeared; hexagons in a cube, parabolas in a cone or contour maps on the surface of a hand. The “Roller Graphicoaster” allowed Bryant and her fellow students to change the slope of the track to see how fast they could make the coaster go.
“I really liked the maze,” said fourth-grader Violet Garcia. “I had to go smaller and smaller and couldn’t turn left.” Garcia is a math-lover, so MoMath was right up her alley. “I like activities in math. You have to be smart and pay attention.”
Garcia and Bryant were among some 200 students from Village East and Highline elementary schools who got to visit MoMath through the support of Oppenheimer Funds. As part of its corporate philanthropy program, Oppenheimer provided admission to the mobile museum, buses and lunch for the students. Oppenheimer employees, including those in CONNECT, a women’s group working to empower women to reach their goals, volunteered to work with the students.
“It’s about being present, being a role model, and not being caught up in math, but making sure it’s fun,” said Sarah Welty, Oppenheimer’s Corporate Philanthropy Program manager. She said supporting programs that spark students’ interest in math also makes good business sense. “It’s important to our business and our country. It’s a national security issue because there are not enough U.S. mathematicians.”
“We are honored that Oppenheimer reached out to Cherry Creek elementary schools for this opportunity,” said Jennifer Overley, district math coordinator for Cherry Creek Schools. “Math Museum offers our students another experience to apply the math they are learning in class and to explore mathematical concepts in a hands-on manner. The interactive stations pull out students' natural curiosity about math's influence on the way things work and encourage them to use more complex thinking to complete tasks.”
But the students weren’t focused on curiosity or complex problems or critical thinking. They were just focused on having fun.