I was super excited in Summer 2022 to visit Maths City: the UK’s first Interactive Maths Centre! Located in the Trinity Shopping Centre Leeds, Maths City is crammed full of fun, colourful objects to pick up and play with. Notably absent are… numbers! Almost all of the exhibits use shapes, mirrors, bubbles and even lasers: but rarely numbers. This was a conscious decision, explain Maths Funsters Dan, Vittoria and Jerry, to make the centre accessible to all, regardless of previous mathematical know-how. Yes that’s right: Maths City is aimed at the general public, not just at mathematicians. (Times tables not required so fear not if you identify as maths-phobic!).
NON-MATHEMATICIANS: will have plenty of fun playing and exploring – when you enjoy being creative with shapes (e.g. Lego, Minecraft) then you are enjoying maths. It often seems to school children that maths is ‘prescriptive’: “you do this, you do that, then the answer appears”. But outside of the classroom maths is a creative and artistic subject: “let’s try this. What happens if we try this? It didn’t work so let’s try this instead. Oh that’s cool, what else can we do with this?” At Maths City you are encouraged to dive in and play – so go along and have fun.
MATHEMATICIANS: will of course find higher levels at which to enjoy the well-thought out exhibits and activities. Even with my degree in maths I was able to enjoy exactly the same exhibits that 4 year olds were delightedly playing with: the activities are well thought out, with plenty of progressions
Among my favourite activities were:
BUBBLE FUN: a selection of 3D wire-frame shapes are on hand, together with buckets of bubble mixture to dip them in. Can you guess what surfaces the bubble mix will make? We’re all so used to bubbles being round that it’s staggeringly beautiful when they make straight lines! You can also stand inside a huge bubble paraboloid.
MIRROR FUN: four coloured “part-rings” must be arranged in the “corner mirror” to recreate a chain of 12 rings (see the picture). In another exhibit you can stand inside a giant mirrored triangle to see multiple copies of yourself.
RUSH HOUR: a giant version of the game in which the object is to release the red car from the traffic jam of cars, buses and lorries. Needless to say we left with 2 copies of the regular-sized game from the gift shop – great fun for all levels.
LASER FUN: you can hold transparent Perspex shapes in a ring of laser light, revealing how, for instance, a cube can have a hexagonal cross section if approached from the correct angle. Ingenious and totally intuitive.
If your interest is piqued I would thoroughly recommend a visit!