Q&A with Emily Vanderpol

re: The Museum of Math, Shapes That Roll, and Mime-matics

EmilyLevitatingAcrobatsMM: What exactly do you do for the Museum of Math?

EV: My job title is Outreach Exhibits Coordinator. That means that typically, I’m responsible for exhibits outside of the Museum walls. We have an exhibition that travels to science centers across the country (called Math Midway) and an exhibition that goes to science festivals, schools, libraries, or really anyplace (called Math Midway 2 Go or MM2GO). We also have other exhibits that we carry around to various places – I am in charge of all of those. I am trained as a designer and work with the exhibits in many capacities including some design, some redesign, some maintenance, and some logistics.

In the past few months, I’ve been chipping in on the effort to open the Museum. That means I’m doing a lot of those same things but the focus has been on the Museum and not the traveling exhibits.

MM: I know you work for a math museum, but do you use math in your job?  And if so, how?

EV: I do, I use a lot of patterns in my graphics and I also think a lot about proportions and ratios in my designs. Also, one problem I do over and over is figuring out how many of a certain shape of magnet I need to have on-hand in order to cover a surface. We have lots of different shaped magnets and lots of different sizes of magnet board and want to make sure we have enough of each shape for visitors to play with.

MM: Tell us about your favorite exhibit.

EV: It’s hard to choose a favorite but I think the exhibit that I was the most excited to play with before the exhibits were installed was Polypaint. Polypaint lets visitors choose a type of pattern from the 17 wallpaper patterns. After the visitor chooses his/her pattern, s/he paints on a blank canvas and the drawing the visitor makes is repeated using the chosen pattern. I find myself looking for patterns in the world all the time and was really excited to see how these particular patterns appeared as I drew.

MM: What was math like for you when you were a kid and when you were in school?

EV: When I was a kid in school, math was one of my favorite subjects. I ended up majoring in math in college mostly because I couldn’t imagine being in school without taking math.

MM: Through working for MoMath, have you learned anything about math, or about yourself and math, that surprised you?

EV: I think working at MoMath has given me a better understanding of how to talk to people about math than I had before. Also I think working at MoMath has shown me that math really is everywhere and that most people are really interested in math – some just don’t realize that what they’re looking at is math!

MM: What are you most excited for now that the museum is open?

EV: I am really excited to see whether everyone loves MoMath as much as we all do. I think it’s such a fun place and such an important museum to have in the world and I’m thrilled that visitors are finally able to see it.

MM: Do you have any parting thoughts that you’d like to share with our young readers?

EV: I know the young readers of Math Munch already get how cool math is but I hope they realize that they have more power than they think and they should share that knowledge with grown-ups too.

2 responses »

  1. Pingback: The Museum of Math, Shapes That Roll, and Mime-matics « Math Munch

  2. I think that it is amazing that you liked math when you were younger and couldn’t live without it. We also have something in common like math is our favorite subject. How is it like being in the exhibitions? Also,how hard is it when you are looking for a new pattern to discover?

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