Grade 5 Takes a Tangent to the National Museum of Math

After pivoting to virtual tours during the pandemic, grade 5 returned for an in-person immersive experience at the National Museum of Mathematics in New York City on Wednesday, November 8. This award-winning museum offers exhibits, galleries, physical activities, and programs designed to stimulate further students’ curiosity, inquiry, and experience of mathematics’s role in populating our world with shapes, patterns, and wonder.

By the time students reach the grade 5-6 curriculum block, their math expertise has blossomed from a graduated understanding of our base ten number system, connections between numbers, and addition and subtraction in grades PK-2 to more sophisticated work with multiplication, division, and problem-solving in grades 3-4. 

By grade 5, students are ready to explore the wonder of math and look under the hood, so to speak. They learn how math permeates our world and contains all manner of hidden gems, such as negative numbers, the quadrants of a coordinate plane, probability, the distributive property, integer operations, measurement, geometry, graphing, and algebraic reasoning. They learn to look critically at their work, explain their thinking, share their problem-solving strategies, and support their solutions to a problem. Throughout grade 6, students learn about ratio, rate and percent, area, surface area, and volume, and how to display, describe, and summarize data to ensure they are prepared to enter a Pre-Algebra class in grade 7.

At the Museum of Mathematics, concepts from the classroom come alive. As grade 5-6 Math Teacher Susan Mooney explained, “They have a small boat that takes students across a river of large acorn-shaped cones. It looks like it will be a bumpy ride, but it is very smooth due to the acorns’ constant diameter. They are getting excited about concepts that might be more abstract in class because I don’t have room for a boat and a river of large acorns.”

That particular ride was a crowd favorite. As Scarlett M. ’31 said, “My favorite exhibit at the Math Museum was Coaster Rollers. You get to ride in a boat and go over shapes. The ride was really fun but also very thought-provoking.”

After returning from the museum, grade 5 student Penn K. ’31 told his teacher, “I keep begging my parents — we have to go back there.” 

The National Museum of Math is located at 11 East 26th Street in New York City and offers engaging exhibits for every age.