Math-related field trip destinations for Bay Area HS students?
August 12, 2014 6:36 PM   Subscribe

I teach math to high schoolers in the San Francisco Bay Area. I'd like to get them out of the classroom on a field trip to a local math-themed destination. Any suggestions?

The destination doesn't need to be as completely all-about-math as the Museum of Math in NYC (though I would totally take them to the Museum of Math if it were nearby). Any place that can be tied in to a meaningful (and fun!) math lesson is fine. I'd rather it not be a theme park, though.

The students would be from math club and advanced classes (precalculus and up), so most are pretty sophisticated and enjoy math to begin with. It would be great to tie the trip in with something off the beaten path, curriculum-wise -- like if we could teleport to the Alhambra and try to spot as many symmetry groups as possible. But we can't teleport to the Alhambra.
posted by aws17576 to Education (11 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Stanford Math Department, home to the first woman to win the Fields Medal, as of today.
posted by judith at 6:46 PM on August 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

The Tech Museum in San Jose
posted by janey47 at 6:48 PM on August 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

There is so much great architecture and civil engineering in the area, I think I would try to find a way to do something mathematical related to that and go see the thing in question.

Here is some discussion of the math of the Golden Gate Bridge.

There is also the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute in Berkeley.

There is also The National Lab in Berkeley.
posted by Michele in California at 7:24 PM on August 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

There's the Computer History Museum too, though that's maybe more of an abstraction. You can also ask the education staff at most museums about their programming and how it could fit in with your curricula-- maybe some of the above institutions have a cool maths-based program already.
posted by jetlagaddict at 7:51 PM on August 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

posted by Confess, Fletch at 8:22 PM on August 12, 2014

The Exploratorium has math-themed exhibits and other fun stuff.
posted by Quietgal at 8:22 PM on August 12, 2014 [3 favorites]

While the museum part of NASA Ames is small, it's got lots of great stuff. And if you organized it in advance, you could probably get a tour of the research facilities.
posted by colin_l at 9:59 PM on August 12, 2014

A couple years ago I was sitting in the outfield at a Oakland A's game and overheard a high school teacher in the row behind me quizzing a half dozen of his students on statistics. He asked the students questions like "If a players batting average is 0.250 how many times does he have to bat on average, before he gets a hit?" Granted, these were younger looking high school students from the inner city, so YMMV. But they were more engaged than most kids I have seen in a math class and I left the game thinking this man was the coolest high school math teacher ever.

Take the students someplace engaging and fun and where the math is readily understandable and you'll score.
posted by ch3ch2oh at 10:52 PM on August 12, 2014 [3 favorites]

Seconding some sort of baseball game, especially if you give them scoresheets to keep track, if they want them. It'd be a good introduction to Statistics, especially if they haven't been exposed to it a lot in school.

If they're schooling was anything like mine when it came to math, the track went: Pre-Algebra - Algebra - Geometry - Trigonometry - Pre-Calculus - Calculus. I didn't get exposed to Statistics until University.
posted by spinifex23 at 11:03 PM on August 12, 2014

There's nothing to actually do at MSRI, but they might be having some 'yay math!' event that would appropriate (promoting math to school kids is officially part of their remit). Even if not, I'd try to get them to let you organise a visit (and try and see if you can get some actual math content out of the Lawrence Hall of Science or UC Berkeley). MSRI is a pretty darn cool place and, while I think my appreciation of it was greater as a grad student than when I went on a math club trip as an undergrad where we had a little tour and ate their tea, I think it would have sunk in when I was 17 or 18 that it was a unique environment. (You could try and spin it as "What do mathematicians do anyway?" As someone who was into math in high school, virtually everyone told me to be an engineer. It was pretty much my mom and the math team coach who said "Why not be a math major? It's not like you have to be an engineer to find a job.")
posted by hoyland at 3:34 AM on August 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

Field Trip #1:
plot this equation: 1/(2pi * R1 * C1)
watch the movie Fantasia (if only you could hear it in Fantasound)
The equation and the movie are related by this product via this patent: (a light bulb is the innovation here !)
US Patent 2,268,872
Now go visit the Birthplace of Silicon Valley, the HP Garage

Field Trip #2:
play Breakout
calculate how much Steve Jobs ripped off Steve Wozniak
Visit the Apple Garage
posted by at at 5:44 PM on August 13, 2014

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