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IOE academics contribute to new maths gallery at the Science Museum

8 December 2016

Professor Dame Celia Hoyles, UCL Knowledge Lab, has contributed to the development of the new 'Winton Gallery' at the Science Museum, which opens to the general public today.

‘Mathematics: The Winton Gallery’ will explore how mathematicians have helped to shape the modern world over the last 400 years through using stories, artefacts and design.

Science Museum maths gallery

Dame Celia was on the Gallery’s Advisory Committee and has co-written a chapter for a book on maths, which is being released in conjunction with the launch.

The book, 'Mathematics: How It Shaped Our World', tells stories about the wide range of people who have been involved in mathematical activity over the past 400 years.

Dame Celia has written the chapter with Professor Helen Wilson from the UCL Department of Mathematics. The chapter highlights the step change in mathematics and explains how information technology, computers and the internet are now integral to the system, rather than tools.

Dame Celia said:

“There is a general perception of maths as being something that is hard, boring and irrelevant. Our chapter argues that mathematics is powerful, intriguing, beautiful and useful. We show the ways in which mathematicians experiment and how mathematics is changing.”

“To have a maths gallery in the prestigious Science Museum is genuinely exciting. On the Advisory Committee, I emphasised the importance of mathematics underpinning the objects in the museum, and that we should make this as visible as possible. From the moment you walk in, the magnificent Zaha Hadid architecture and the objects on show could lead to a seismic shift in the way people perceive maths.”

Dr Alison Clark-Wilson, UCL Knowledge Lab, is writing an article for teachers of mathematics to showcase the mathematical objects and ideas that are represented in the Gallery. It will include interviews with the team that has designed the gallery and suggest ways in which visitors (including younger pupils) might interact with the space. The article will be published by the ‘Mathematics Teaching’ journal in January 2017.

Dr Clark-Wilson said:

“Many teachers of mathematics up and down the country will be interested in what the Winton Gallery offers – they’ll decide whether to organise school trips for their pupils. I am interviewing the designers, trying out some of the interactive exhibits and, if it proves possible, charting some possible mathematical journeys through the gallery for different-aged visitors with their teachers.”

The gallery was designed by Zaha Hadid Architects. Inspired by the Handley Page aircraft, it is laid out using principles of mathematics and physics. These principles also inform the three-dimensional curved surfaces representing the patterns of airflow that would have streamed around this aircraft.

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  • The Winton Gallery at the Science Museum, courtesy of Nick Guttridge.