There are 54 math museums in 22 countries around the world – the majority in Europe. The ICM panel Math Museums showcased various examples of how museums are dispelling math myths and getting rid of the stigma that it’s ‘not for everyone.’

 

Of the 54, ICM 2018 heard from 5: the new MoMath in New York, the long-established Mathematikum in Germany, the Gyanome Foundation in India, the unfinished Henri Poincare Institute in Paris, and Brazil’s Matemateca, based in São Paulo.  The panelists all agreed that their most pressing challenge is breaking people’s negative attitudes toward the subject.  People seem to be scared of math. 

 

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In South America, curators face the extra challenge of inadequate funding. According to Andres Navas, president of the Chilean Mathematical Society who attended the panel on Saturday evening to request assistance for projects in his homeland, the secret to success is taking mathematics to the streets. Instead of putting exhibits in a museum, Andres and his team have created a less conventional  ‘Festival of Math’ which has already appeared in five different cities around Chile. “We don’t have special places for culture,” he shared, “but we do have culture in the streets. This is why we decided to have the festival, and it works wonderfully!”

 

Deborah Raphael, vice-director of IME-USP in São Paulo, created the mobile Matemateca but needs some investment to develop it into something that can make a more substantial difference in Brazil.