The Michigan Science Center’s new MathAlive! exhibit will allow attendees to explore math in fun new ways, such as creating buildings, exploring weather or designing their own skateboard, pictured.

The Michigan Science Center’s new MathAlive! exhibit will allow attendees to explore math in fun new ways, such as creating buildings, exploring weather or designing their own skateboard, pictured.

Photo provided by the Michigan Science Center


Michigan Science Center launches new exhibit to make math come alive

By: Brendan Losinski | Metro | Published June 18, 2021

 The Michigan Science Center’s MathAlive! exhibit will include stations that show how angles and calculating speed play pivotal roles in activities like snowboarding.

The Michigan Science Center’s MathAlive! exhibit will include stations that show how angles and calculating speed play pivotal roles in activities like snowboarding.

Photo provided by the Michigan Science Center

 Math plays key roles in everything from space travel to sports to music. The Michigan Science Center wants to demonstrate that through its MathAlive! exhibit, which will run through the spring of 2022.

Math plays key roles in everything from space travel to sports to music. The Michigan Science Center wants to demonstrate that through its MathAlive! exhibit, which will run through the spring of 2022.

Photo provided by the Michigan Science Center

DETROIT — Making math fun may sound impossible to some, but the Michigan Science Center is doing just that with its new MathAlive! Program.

MathAlive! is a new, highly interactive exhibit that will launch Saturday, June 26, and is designed to boost kids’ math proficiency through interactive and engaging exhibits.

“I think it’s great because it doesn’t look like a math exhibit,” said Michigan Science Center CEO Christian Greer. “It has lightning and thunderclaps, displays on tall buildings, robots talking to people. You want to keep people who have a fear of math interested. You don’t want to intimidate them; you want to draw them in and show them how to explore and discover the topic.”

In the exhibit, kids can ride a snowboard, design a skateboard, engineer a model city, create a sustainable skyscraper and strike a pose in a 360-degree freeze-motion photo shoot. The “Extreme Weather Alert” station lets visitors analyze weather data and record their own weather telecast, which they can send to themselves.

“The exhibit itself has a flow where you go from station to station with each one covering a career or area of daily life,” said Exhibit Manager Andy Zulkiewski. “We have a snowboard simulator, for instance, that shows how math and angles are involved. Our team will be involved as well with a stage and helping people with hands-on activities that they can do with their phones.”

MathAlive! is geared toward third through eighth graders. It will run through the spring of 2022 and is included in the museum’s general admission fee. The museum is located at 5020 John R St. in Detroit.

“The exhibit is free with general admission,” said Greer. “Normally when we have a special exhibit, we have a special cost, but this one was important enough so that we wanted to make it as accessible as possible. This was made possible by support from the Ford Motor Co. Fund and Axalta. What’s also interesting is that we became a Smithsonian affiliate this year, and this was a display that debuted at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C., so that is very cool to us.”

One of the primary reasons the exhibit was chosen by Michigan Science Center administrators was that they saw it as a good way to combat the learning loss some students may have suffered due to COVID-19.

“The biggest reason we chose this exhibit was that after last summer being closed, we were thinking about learning loss during the pandemic,” said Zulkiewski. “This exhibit shows how math is around us every day. It shows kids how math is in sports, robotics, fashion and everything else. It gets them excited about math and gets them to want to learn more about it.”

Last year, we were trying to figure out how to do things productively during the pandemic,” added Greer. “We were thinking of how to get a head start on 2021. Part of this was to determine how to respond to kids who had been at home. When folks come back, we thought they would be so far behind that there would be learning loss, like what happens to students when they are out of school for the summer, only worse.”

Although designed for a certain age group, Greer said the exhibit will be fun for everyone, even those who aren’t interested in math.

“Even if students struggle with math, they can still benefit from this exhibit, maybe even more so,” he remarked. “Math is the key part of (science, technology, engineering and math), so we sought out EverGreen, who is the company that designed Math Alive. We got the exhibit for a year, which is long for an exhibit here. We think that it will benefit kids by making math interactive.”

Greer went on to say that the exhibit is far-reaching and provides such a wide range of displays and attractions that there is something interesting there for everyone.

“We wanted to put together a plan that was even bigger than the exhibit,” he said. “Most exhibits are stand-alone, but this one has a huge space and we had a hope that we could work with community organizations that use math to come into the space and incorporate them into it. We have groups that specialize in math or coding and they can meet with attendees so parents and teachers can bring kids in and provide new paths to interest or help students in math.”

The hope is that math can be made more interesting to those who see it as boring numbers and equations.

“This exhibit is an 8,000-square-foot touring exhibit. It was already designed and was originally launched at the Smithsonian. It was originally designed by a collection of partners like the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics and NASA,” Zulkiewski said. “My favorite thing about the exhibit is the weather alert exhibit. Just getting to see how a meteorologist does a weather report and do the same thing yourself at the exhibit is so exciting. It gets people interested in math.”