Kid Reporters

Math Madness

TFK Kid Reporter Claire Duncan visits the MathAlive! exhibit in Washington, D.C.

March 19, 2012

TFK Kid Reporter Claire Duncan tests the theory that her span is equal to her height.

Students learn about angles as they play the snowboard game.
Students learn about angles as they play the snowboard game.

“Why do we need to learn all this math anyway?” Does this sound familiar? Kids around the world have been asking this question for years. Finally, a new exhibit called MathAlive! is answering back. The exhibit features 47 different hands-on activities designed to teach kids how math is used in everyday life.

The Raytheon Company created the exhibit as part of their MathMovesU program. The exhibit will visit 15 U.S. and International cities in the next 5 years. TFK Kid Reporter Claire Duncan saw it at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. The company hopes having a movable exhibit will allow more kids to participate and learn the relevance of math.

 “We’ve learned so much about student attitudes toward math,” says Pam Wickham, who works for Raytheon. “We want to make sure that as many kids as possible have an opportunity to visit.”

How We Measure Up

A student learns about frequency as he creates his own animation.
A student learns about frequency as he creates his own animation.

According to the Programme for International Student Assessment, students in the U.S. rank 31st in the world in math performance. Before creating the exhibit, Raytheon Company decided to conduct their own study to understand more about U.S. students’ attitudes toward math. They asked 1,000 U.S. middle school students ages 10-14 to rank the importance of math and their feelings toward the subject.

Kid Reporter
Claire Duncan
  • 70 percent of respondents said they like math
  • 15 percent chose Math as their favorite subject. (Third to Physical Education and Art)
  • 58 percent believe math will be important to their future
  • 85 percent of students could identify Lady Gaga, while only 66% were able to identify Albert Einstein
  • 44 percent would rather take out the trash than do math homework.

But most students could agree on a preference for hands-on, interactive activities or computer-based lessons instead of more traditional approaches, such as textbooks.

It’s Alive

You won’t find any textbooks at the MathAlive! exhibit. Most of the stations are interactive. At the Measure Up station, visitors test the theory that a person’s arm span equals their height. At the snowboard race station, only the perfect angles will win the race down the snow-covered hill.

Math skills will also help visitors virtually control the NASA robot on a mission outside of the Space Station. Designing is also a big part of the experience. Visitors can design and build bridges, create a custom skateboard or develop their own video games.

Alex Vogel of Arlington, Virginia, visited the exhibit with his family. “I never knew math could be seen in such a fun way,” he said.

To learn more about MathAlive!, visit or

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