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EducationMathematics in Science Centers

Math Momentum Workshop

Staff teams from 13 ASTC-member museums graph flower attributes at a March 2003 Mathematics Momentum in Science Centers institute.
Photo by Hilary Troester

ASTC has a longstanding commitment to promoting a clearer role for mathematics in science centers.

In 1998, prompted by a meeting of concerned science center professionals, ASTC undertook a study to learn more about mathematics in science centers and professional development for the field. Andrea Anderson of the University of Washington directed the National Science Foundation-funded project, which examined existing programs and resources in five museums. Her findings are reported in the 2001 ASTC publication Mathematics in Science Centers.

The results of that study have informed new efforts, including the regular meetings of the Math Special Interest Group at the ASTC Annual Conference, the scheduling of mathematics-related sessions and workshops at the conference, and, most recently, collaboration with the education research and development organization TERC in a 2003-2005 project, Math Momentum in Science Centers (MMSC).

Math Momentum in Science Centers

Twelve ASTC members and one additional science center participated in MMSC, which was also funded by the National Science Foundation. The goal of the project was to give science center professionals across the United States the tools and experiences they need to:

  • Develop an inquiry-based understanding of elements of data and measurement, as embodied in science center exhibits and programming, and connect these concepts to the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Standards.
  • Explore why and how mathematics is an important part of a science center's work and how science centers can be an important resource in informal math learning.
  • Look for and find the math embedded in their exhibits and programs and think of new ways to integrate math into their work with science.
  • Explore mathematical learning environments and consider how to create rich mathematical opportunities for all visitors.
  • Consider how equity and accessibility relate to math learning.
  • Develop a vision for increasing the presence of math in their institutions.
  • Acquire access to a network of people and resources that would facilitate the inclusion of math in their science center programs and exhibits.

Work done by the MMSC participants and some lessons drawn from the project are described in two articles published in the January/February 2006 issue of ASTC Dimensions.

"Gearing Up for Math: Professional Development Builds Capacity,"
by DeAnna Beane

"Finding the Math: A Math Momentum Sampler,"
by Carolyn Sutterfield and the MMSC Teams

TERC is preparing a book based on the project, Math Momentum in Science Centers, which will be distributed by ASTC in 2006. For updated information, visit
TERC Math Momentum in Science Centers

Additional math resources:

"Tips from the Math Forum," by Gene Klotz
(ASTC Dimensions, January/February 2006)

American Mathematical Society. Of interest to educators are the Mathematical Moments, one-page illustrated flyers exploring the role of math in science, nature, technology, and human culture, and archive of the Who Wants to Be a Mathematician? contest for high schoolers.

Franklin Institute Online Math. Look for Exhibit Math, developed by the Harcourt teachers-in-residence and Melting Pot Math: Multicultural Problems for the 21st Century.

MacTutor History of Mathematics. This online archive at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland, U.K., includes biographies of mathematicians and an "on this day" calendar.

Math Awareness Month. This themed event, held in April, is a project of the American Mathematical Society, the American Statistical Association, the Mathematical Association of America, and the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics.

Mathagony Aunt. A web site of activities and information inspired by the weekly "Mathagony Aunt" column in the Times Educational Supplement (TES).

MathCymru. A web site developed for children, parents, and teachers as part of the Maths Year 2000 initiative and now supported by the Welsh Assembly Government.

Mathematical Association of America. Math games and columns by popular math writers Ivars Peterson, Keith Devlin (The Math Guy on NPR's Weekend Edition), and others are a regular feature of this web site.

National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. Founded in 1920, NCTM is the world's largest mathematics education organization. The NCTM Standards are posted here, along with a link to Figure This!, NCTM's math challenges for families.

NRich. Created as part of the Millennium Math Project at the University of Cambridge, this mathematics enrichment site features games and challenges linked to the U.K.'s national math curriculum.

Origami. Click on "Origami & Math" for links to a variety of resources.

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