Museum of Math – It’s not just for kids

The Jack of Hearts Puzzle will be debuted at the Museum of Mathematics’ upcoming Tavern Night. (Photo courtesy of MoMath.)

The Jack of Hearts Puzzle will be debuted at the Museum of Mathematics’ upcoming Tavern Night. (Photo courtesy of MoMath.)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The Museum of Mathematics on East 26th Street just north of Madison Square Park (a.k.a. MoMath) is teaming up with the creators of a classic tavern game to debut the newest Tavern Puzzle this Sunday in one of their programs geared towards getting adults interested in math.

MoMath executive director Cindy Lawrence said that the Tavern Night was actually planned as an adults-only event, but when kids began expressing interest in it, Lawrence didn’t want them to be excluded.

“Initially we thought it would be fun to do a tavern night, to dim the lights and make it more of a bar theme,” she said. “But a lot of young folks love the puzzle, so we didn’t want to say they couldn’t come.”

Puzzle creators Dennis and Donna Sucilsky will debut Jack of Hearts at the event as the next in their collection of puzzles, which are all handcrafted and based on designs traditionally forged by blacksmiths. Dennis, who is a trained blacksmith, and his wife Donna will talk about how they got started with puzzling, how they make the puzzles and how they create their new designs.

Lawrence noted that one of their ongoing programs, Unbounded, is one event that is always exclusively adults.

“People who came to our Unbounded night probably wouldn’t self-identified as ‘math people,’ but it’s a night out, something different to do,” she said.
The event is mainly an opportunity for adults to experience the museum at night, she said, but she added they’re also open to advice on different activities and said that attendees have been receptive to themes, which they will be incorporating more into future events.

“We had a game portion at the last one that was 15 minutes long if that but people loved it,” she said.

Another one-time event that she said the museum is working on is something related to gay pride month coming up in June. She said that there isn’t anything specifically planned yet but they are working on something that will be related to the gay community’s contribution to mathematics.

The museum also hosts a number of evening talks that are more adult-oriented, with speakers like Alan Turing biographer Andrew Hodges and a Q&A between actor Alex Sharp and MoMath founder Glen Whitney on the math behind Broadway show, “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.”

“We have quite a following for those now,” Lawrence said of the talks. She added that there are a lot of preconceived notions about the museum, mainly that it’s only for kids and it will be boring because it’s about math, and she’s hoping that some of the programming will shift those ideas.

“When I tell people what I do and where I work, they usually have one of two reactions,” she said. “The first is, ‘I love math and can’t wait to visit,’ which is very rare, or they say they hate math. Then I say to those people that they’re our target. Our goal is to change the perception that math is not what they think it is.”

Lawrence recalled that before the museum first opened, there was a story from a reporter who thought the museum would be a dud because “everybody hates math.”

“I actually called her up and invited her to come check us out,” Lawrence said. “She wrote a second article saying she had been wrong about the museum and about math, so that’s what we’re trying to do with our mission.”

MoMath, 11 East 26th Street, will hold Tavern Night on Sunday, April 12 at 7 p.m. Beer and wine will be available for purchase (with proper ID), so those under the age of 16 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. Admission is $14. To register, visit momath.org or call (212) 542-0566.

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