# Education Perspectives

Education Perspectives podcast explores the challenges and opportunities in education from birth through productive work. Everyone seems to agree in principle that education is important. So, why is it so hard for us to get to a system that works for our society as it exists today?

Taking the 30,000-foot view to look at the entirety of our multiple systems so that we might begin to plot a course toward transformational change is worthwhile. This type of change cannot happen until people are “rowing the boat” in the same direction.

Education Perspectives includes interviews with people engaged in the work at every level. Looking at challenges and opportunities and what they would like for decision-makers to know. This type of communication changes the dialog. Understanding where the other people in the room are coming from breaks down barriers and opens the conversation on a broader level.

Framed by the host through the lens of having worked in a consulting role with each level, Education Perspectives can give policymakers, administrators, education advocates and the community a unique view into this education journey. Considering these various perspectives to make for better communication can reframe discussions and move policymakers' understanding forward to make policy that will better meet the needs of our information economy.

## Education Perspectives

# S3 EP4 Redefining Math Education: Cindy Lawrence’s Vision for a Playful Approach at MoMath

**Cindy Lawrence**

Executive Director

**MoMath**

**Quote of the Podcast: **

A lot things seem impossible…until you do them.

**Introduction of Guest BIO – **

Cindy Lawrence is the Executive Director and CEO of the National Museum of Mathematics (MoMath). She began her career as a CPA before transitioning to education, where she developed curriculum and taught students globally. Lawrence has been instrumental in creating and directing a math program for gifted students and played a key role in establishing MoMath. Since becoming CEO in 2015, she has focused on changing public perceptions of math, enhancing math education, and overseeing museum operations. Under her leadership, MoMath has attracted over a million visitors and engaged audiences worldwide. Lawrence is also a sought-after speaker and consultant in math education.

**Interview**

**Agents of Change: Leaders/Innovators**

- 30, a 000 Ft. View – Why so we, as society invest in education?
*What drew you to education?*- Everyone can enjoy math
- MoMath Museum
*What are the biggest challenges to you?**What would you like decision makers to know?*

**Podcast/book shoutouts**

*Education Perspectives is edited by *** Shashank P at**https://www.fiverr.com/saiinovation?source=inbox

Intro and Outro by Dynamix Productions

Liza Holland [00:00:02]:

Welcome to education perspectives. I am your host, Liza Holland. This is a podcast that explores the role of education in our society from a variety of lenses. Education needs to evolve to meet the needs of today and the future. Solving such huge issues requires understanding. Join me as we begin to explore the many perspectives of education.

Liza Holland [00:00:28]:

Cindy Lawrence is the executive director and CEO of the National Museum of Mathematics or MoMath. She began her career as a CPA before transitioning into education where she developed curriculum and taught students globally. Lawrence has been instrumental in creating and directing a math program for gifted students and played a key role in establishing MoMath. Since becoming CEO in 2015, she has focused on changing public perceptions of math, enhancing math education, and overseeing museum operations. Under her leadership, MoMath has attracted over a 1000000 visitors and engaged audiences worldwide. Lawrence is also a sought after speaker and consultant in math education. Cindy Lawrence, so glad to have you here in Education Perspectives. Thanks for joining us today.

Cindy Lawrence [00:01:20]:

Thank you for having me. It's wonderful to be here.

Liza Holland [00:01:23]:

Well, I need to kick you off with our question that we ask everyone from a 30,000 foot view. Why do you think that we as a society invest in education?

Cindy Lawrence [00:01:34]:

I think we invest in education so that the workforce of tomorrow and the civilizations of tomorrow continue to make progress and progress takes all kinds of forms, whether that's learning more to do things that benefit humanity, like curing disease or whether that's exploration of space and things we don't yet know about, or whether it's just learning for the sake of humanity. It's something we like to do. We like to know more. We like to question why, and we like to find those answers. And so I think focusing on education serves the world in a very large sense.

Liza Holland [00:02:11]:

I couldn't agree with you more. Absolutely. So you've had kind of an interesting path to getting into education. What drew you to education?

Cindy Lawrence [00:02:21]:

Well, it's interesting, but I guess in a short answer, I would say parenthood drew me to education. So I was always somebody who enjoyed learning somebody who enjoyed school for the most part and did well in my classes. And math was part of that, but so was English. And so were many other, endeavors that, that I liked. I just liked learning new things. But when you become a parent, you become an automatic teacher. Whether you are trained as a teacher or not, these little people that enter your life, they're little sponges and you have a choice as to what you will convey, how you will convey. One of the things that I found joyful was sharing my love of math with my children when they were younger.

Cindy Lawrence [00:03:05]:

And that took all sorts of forms. I remember in particular, we, we had a rainy day at home where we painted paper plates, but we didn't just paint paper plates. We painted them and then we cut them in various ways. We took the blue one and we cut it in 2 pieces and, you know, those were yellow and those ended up representing a half. And then we took the green plate and we cut it in 3 equal pieces and those were thirds and so on. And then we just played with the different ways you could put them together. So you didn't just have to put the blue with the blue and the yellow with the yellow, but oh, if I put a half and I have 2 quarters that fits on the plate too. And it was sort of a fun mashup of an art project because not only were we painting, but I only, we only use 3 colors and we were experimenting with, well, if you mix yellow and red, what happens? So, so so there was color mixing involved.

Cindy Lawrence [00:03:56]:

And but those plates, they then stayed with us for a long time, and we would take them out and play with them. And that's just one example. But there there are lots of things in math that I found joyful and fun, and I enjoyed sharing with my children. So that was sort of a natural start to to being in education. In my professional life, I had been a CPA with a large public accounting firm, and then I had worked, in business. I worked for our local newspaper in their finance and accounting department. But when I became a mom, I was looking for something I could do at night. I wanted to be home with the kids by day and do something more or less after the day was done.

Cindy Lawrence [00:04:37]:

And what I ended up doing was going into education and teaching people who wanted to become CPAs, how to pass that very difficult four part CPA exam. And so that was sort of a job of convenience. Hey, this is great. I'm a CPA. I can use my knowledge and I can do something at night. And I found out I really liked working with the students. I liked feeling like I was helping them. They all had a goal.

Cindy Lawrence [00:05:01]:

They were all trying to learn something that was important to their careers. And so that was sort of very separate from mathematics, but I enjoyed serving in the role of instructor and mentor and sometimes cheerleader and helping people get through that. And quite by accident, I fell into the world of MoMath. MoMath didn't even exist at that point yet. But a friend of mine was a mathematician, got it in his head to open a museum of math. And given my love of math, I volunteered. I didn't know what I was volunteering for, but I volunteered to help think about what that could be. And so we started having some meetings, mostly with a group of math educators that had been involved with a small museum of math that had existed, but gone out of business.

Cindy Lawrence [00:05:50]:

And one thing led to another, and we were invited to bring our math museum information, our activities to the World Science Festival in New York City in 2009. That was very exciting for us, but we actually had spent weeks by committee drafting a mission statement. So all we really had to bring to this festival was a mission statement, and that wasn't gonna work. And so we ended up deciding to build a traveling exhibition that would make its debut at that festival and have a life beyond that. We were all of us very ignorant about how to do that. And that actually served in our favor. Because what happened was we decided in January that we were gonna build a square, 34100, 35100 square foot traveling exhibition and bring it to this festival in June. Now being in the museum world, I happen to know that that's a very aggressive or some would say impossible schedule, but we didn't know that.

Cindy Lawrence [00:06:53]:

The economy was not doing well. So there were a lot of companies that build museum exhibits that were dry. They had no work. They were all bidding on our little project at the end because of the enthusiasm of our designer. We ended up designing a 45 100 square foot exhibition that made its debut and formed really the basis of what became the National Museum of Mathematics. So I, you know, I volunteered really to be on a committee and help with a one day event and never expected that I would leave my job in CPA Review, which at that point I'd been doing for 18 years and total left turn and really a wonderful turn in my life. I've been really, rewarded to feel like I'm making a difference in the lives of people when it comes to their relationship with mathematics.

Liza Holland [00:07:43]:

Why that's so exciting and what a great story behind it. I mean, how that birth of, not knowing what the boundaries are or what the norms were, you were able to kind of blow them apart and create that exhibition. That is so cool. So tell me a little bit more about MoMath today. You've been actually in a physical location for a while. What can people expect if they put MoMath on their itinerary when they come to New York?

Cindy Lawrence [00:08:10]:

So first of all, what they can expect is to be surprised because when most people envision or hear the words math museum, they are expecting to see numbers, calculators, chalkboards, graph paper. They won't see much of any of that. If any of that in this museum, What they will see, our marquee exhibit is a tricycle, adult size and kid size. We have 2, and you can ride it, but these tricycles are unusual. They have square wheels. And it doesn't seem possible to ride something where the wheels are square, but it turns out math can help you make the impossible possible. And so with a little bit of calculus, you can figure out that if you change the shape of the floor, there is actually a shape that will make perfectly with a rolling square. And you can actually see it over my shoulder.

Cindy Lawrence [00:08:58]:

It's the bright yellow exhibit that you can see just in the corner of the screen. It was little gentle Hills made perfectly with a rolling square. So people come in, they're delighted to be surprised. They're delighted that they can get on and have a full body experience. Something else we don't associate with mathematics. They see bright colors, not just that trike track, but you can see the floor behind me is an interactive floor that also uses math, but it reacts when you step on it. And it's, it's quite beautiful. They can paint with symmetry.

Cindy Lawrence [00:09:29]:

So you literally take a paintbrush, dip it into a can of digital paint, and you start painting on a giant easel and the canvas immediately fills up with amazingly beautiful symmetrical patterns. So what people can expect is to be surprised to be sort of immersed in something that is a full body experience. They're sitting on something, they're playing with something, they're interacting with something. And I think to leave with a very different experience of what mathematics is and what mathematics can be.

Liza Holland [00:10:02]:

You know, I love that, especially because you're giving context to what to most people can often seem like very abstract ideas and seeing how that might play out. You know what I mean? Using calculus, I've never in a 1000000 years would have thought that that would apply to, being able to ride a trike that, that has square wheels. That is fascinating. Tell me a little bit about more about your thoughts as far as math and play together. I loved your story about the, you know, doing the plates with your kids, but I think that we don't give math enough credit for how much fun it can be. Tell me a little bit more about your thoughts on that.

Cindy Lawrence [00:10:45]:

I think math is playful. And when you talk to mathematicians and you hear them describe the work that they do, it is very playful and it is very exploratory. And I think we give the incorrect impression that there's nothing left to learn in mathematics. We have textbooks and there are the ancient Greeks and Indians and Romans, and they all figured everything out. And we're just now passing along knowledge that is complete. The reality is that there are people called mathematicians in the world who kind of push the boundaries of what we know. And there are. Lots of things called unsolved problems, open problems, if you will.

Cindy Lawrence [00:11:24]:

I didn't know anything like that existed, but there are many open problems that mathematicians work on. Some of which will have some kind of application in the real world, but many of which are just knowledge for the sake of knowledge. And I think the best way for people to understand what I mean by that is to think about a puzzle. We do puzzles as humans. We tend to like puzzles. There's nothing as satisfying as putting the last piece in the puzzle it's done. Or if it's a physical manipulative puzzle where you're trying to maybe take something apart or put something together and seems impossible and you try it this way, you try it that way. Sometimes almost without knowing, oh, it's popped up.

Cindy Lawrence [00:12:03]:

I solved it. There's this joy. There's this elation that comes from having that insight or putting that last piece in, and that's the playful side of mathematics. And so you could wonder. Okay, I know this, but what if I tried that? Is it possible? Mathematicians do a lot of wondering, is it possible? And if it's possible, is it always that way? Are there exceptions or is it never possible? A great example of the playfulness of mathematics is new research paper that was published at this point a year and a half ago. And mathematicians had wondered for a while about tilings. Now you think about tiling your kitchen floor, let's say, and maybe you just use square tiles and we all can imagine. Is that it doesn't matter how big your kitchen is.

Cindy Lawrence [00:12:49]:

You could put those squares in and they will fit out to infinity. You could keep going. You want to expand your kitchen. You can just keep adding tiles. And the thing is, if I took a block of, let's say 8 tiles from your kitchen, and I took a picture of it on my camera and you have a big kitchen, let's say. And so now I move to another block and I take a picture again of 8 tiles and I show you those 2 pictures and all you can see are the tiles. You will not be able to tell me where I took that picture. So that's kind of what we mean when we talk about a tiling that just goes on forever.

Cindy Lawrence [00:13:22]:

And it turns out there's something called an aperiodic tiling, which goes on forever, but it never exactly repeats. And so you might take a picture here and a picture there, and maybe in a very small area, it would be the same. But if you take a large enough picture, you can't find it somewhere else. And the idea that something could go on forever with the same tile, but never repeat is sort of surprising. And a number of years ago, sir Roger Penrose from the United Kingdom discovered that there are 2 rhombus shapes. A rhombus is kind of like a square or rectangle that gets slanted. He found that if you combine these 2 different rhombuses, you can make an aperiodic tiling that will go on forever and never repeat. That's called a Penrose tiling.

Cindy Lawrence [00:14:09]:

And so of course, the natural next question was, is there a single tile that can do this? Could we take one shape and could it be periodic in this way that it goes on forever, or I should say a periodic, never repeating? And mathematicians really didn't think the answer was gonna be yes to that. Well, suddenly what I will call an amateur mathematician, a guy who liked playing with shapes was fiddling around and he thought he came up with a shape that actually does this. And he wrote to some other people involved in the world of tiling some academic mathematicians and computer scientists. And guess what? He had in fact discovered what is called an aperiodic monotile, a single shape that you can tile your floor with forever, and it will never exactly repeat itself. That not only made the New York Times, I think, 2 or 3 times, it was also on Jimmy Kimmel at night. So, like, when has a math paper been on late night television? So, and it's very playful and everyone could understand what was going on, even though the actual proof that this is an a periodic monotile is beyond the realm of what most of a general audience could understand. But understanding that there is this tile and you can play with it and you can see how it works. It's play it's math play at its best.

Liza Holland [00:15:30]:

You know, I really feel like that's where learning happens most authentically is when you have that kind of playful approach. I got completely obsessed with a television show in maybe eighties nineties. I'm not sure exactly when it was, but it was called numbers. And it featured a mathematician as a, a key character there and how he could apply math to like anything in the process of investigating for the FBI. But I just, as somebody who grew up in a very rote mathematic type of a system where I concluded that I was not good at math because I could never I could do formulas. I could do all this kind of stuff, but I didn't understand the why. And so I just thought I was bad at math. Tell me from your perspective what you would tell a student like me as it comes to math because since I've grown up, I have found new ways and fun, playful ways to be able to actually enjoy math.

Liza Holland [00:16:29]:

But what would you tell students?

Cindy Lawrence [00:16:31]:

I think you've gotten to the heart of a problem that I hear repeated over and over again that I experienced myself. So you're not the only person and many mathematicians tell me they've experienced this too. The problem is I think that we confuse arithmetic and mathematics. And arithmetic is sort of like the basics. You have to learn your addition facts. You have to memorize your multiplication tables. You have to understand what these concepts mean, but that's not where the joy comes in. And if that's all you see, and if you can regurgitate a formula and get the right answer, but you don't understand where it comes from or why it works or why you're doing it, it's meaningless.

Cindy Lawrence [00:17:10]:

And I think people even people who think they're good in math sometimes don't spend more time with it because it doesn't mean anything. Yeah. I can I can memorize facts? I can memorize methods of doing something. I think the best way to understand this is to compare it to music for an example. So if you think about a child who hears a symphony orchestra and says to his or her parent, I want to learn to play the violin. There was a violin solo. It was beautiful. And I want to play the violin.

Cindy Lawrence [00:17:41]:

What's going to happen if the parents agree? Well, they're going to come up with a violin. The child can't just pick up the bow on the violin and make beautiful music. What's going to happen first is someone has to show them how to hold the violin. Right. That's not easy. Where do you put it? Where on your shoulder? Where on your chin? How do you hold the bow? How does the bow interact with the violin? So there's a lot of mechanics and then there's music and musical notation. Nobody is born knowing that when you see 5 lines with some dots and circles on that, what that means. So we have to teach children and we use mnemonics and we teach them if it's here, it's an a, if it's here to see if it's colored in, if it has a stem, it doesn't have a stem.

Cindy Lawrence [00:18:21]:

What is 3, 4 time versus some other time? None of this is the beautiful music that they heard at the symphony. And, oh, by the way, they have to practice their scale. So now they know how to read the music and how to hold the violin. They're not still not making beautiful music. They're playing dole Remy up and down and up and down to get their mind and their body comfortable enough with the mechanics and the notation so that they become facile with it. And once they are now, here's a beautiful piece of music. We put it in front of them. They play and something wonderful has been created, but it didn't happen right away.

Cindy Lawrence [00:19:00]:

And I think math is like that too. You come into a classroom and there are things you have to memorize. There are things you have to practice. There are mechanics involved. There's notation involved. What we sometimes miss, I think is that we don't share with students the symphony part of mathematics. So they do all this and they say, why? Or they say, I'm not good at this because I don't understand why it's working and they walk away from it. MoMath exists to be the symphony of mathematics.

Cindy Lawrence [00:19:31]:

We want students to ride a square wheel tricycle and wonder how in the world does that work? Oh, calculus. What's calculus? I never even heard, you know, for a younger kid, I never heard that word. They might in this day and age, Google it and start to learn something or find an online video that they can watch to learn about calculus or about how calculus was used for this exhibit. But we have to have that spark of inspiration and that's, I think what's missing teachers do a fabulous job of teaching students what they need to know. The basics, the mechanics, the notation, that's the start. But when a teacher can come on a field trip to a place like MoMath, then there's a spark. Then there's something that a student and not all students will be interested, just like not all students will wanna learn to play the violin because they heard the symphony. But some percentage of students that are capable and interested will go further with it.

Cindy Lawrence [00:20:28]:

And I just wanna double down on one other concept. You you notice I said capable. Another problem we have in math, I think, is that people themselves decide and and teachers also sometimes decide that one student is more capable than another in mathematics. And I think we need to get away from that as a society. I don't think there is such a thing as a child who cannot do mathematics. I think there are differences in interest and abilities in anything. And so, you know, music is another example. There might be a child who has what we would call natural musical talent from a young age.

Cindy Lawrence [00:21:05]:

They sit down at a piano and they can bang out a tune and they can replicate a tune. They can play by ear. Or you might have a student who's really athletically talented and they can take a basketball and throw it. And it gets into the basket many more times than maybe their friend down the block. But we don't tell students, well, you missed the shot with the basketball, so don't try out for the team. Or, you know, you can't draw, so don't take a painting class. Or you don't sound so good. You don't have a natural ability to play the piano.

Cindy Lawrence [00:21:39]:

So don't take piano lessons. What we say is you want to learn to play the piano. You want to join the basketball team. You want to take an art class. Yes. And we'll teach you and we'll start from where you are and we'll get you to where you need to be. And so I think there are natural differences in children's interests and abilities, but I don't think there's any child who can't with proper instruction, learn

to be good in any of those things. And math is not different from painting or athletics or music in that regard, but somehow a lot of people have it in their head that, well, you're naturally good in math or you're not, and that's it. And, I have 3 children and my own experience with my own 3 children underscores what I'm saying to you because I had different children, and they expressed abilities or lack of abilities in mathematics differently. And I will say that today, you would not know one of my children struggled to learn how to add. 2 +3 was a challenge. And you could not look at my 3 children and what they do today. They're all adults now. They're all in a math or science related field.

Cindy Lawrence [00:22:51]:

You would not know which one of them struggled and which one of them was very good from the beginning and which one of them was perfectly adequate all along. You can't tell. And you would probably guess wrong if I told you what they all do now. But that's because we just tried different ways. Okay. If adding 2 plus 3 is not clear to you this way, maybe we can look at it that way. Some people learn by manipulating objects. Other people are auditory learners.

Cindy Lawrence [00:23:18]:

Other people are more visual in how they learn math crosses all of those. So we just have an open mind about how to reach students and not ever say you can't do math. Math is not your thing. Do something else. To me, when I hear that, I think that's very wrong.

Liza Holland [00:23:37]:

I love that because I was very frustrated as a, you know, one of these students that was pretty good at most things, and the whole math track just would frustrate me. And so much of that, honestly, was just that kind of personal, I don't know, personal pride in in wanting to do well and wanting to be able to understand and to learn. And I think that that's something that as our kids are growing up today, it is more important than ever that they become lifelong learners, and they find that symphony in math, and they find that special thing that, you know, maybe it's geometry that really fascinates you in math, or maybe it's logic, or maybe it's something else, but giving yourself that permission to, you know, find the space that really does attract you. Absolutely. I would also love to get your thoughts on commentary because things are changing so quickly. And obviously, with the advent of AI, there's a whole new world out there, and there's a lot of math involved in that kind of technology. What are your thoughts about AI and how it might impact math?

Cindy Lawrence [00:24:46]:

I think there's a lot of AI, there's a lot of math under the hood in AI, and AI is also changing the way mathematicians work. There are computer programs now that can prove or disprove a theorem or a potential theorem. A theorem is a a statement that we decide is is always true. And there are actually computer programs that are learning to go through the rigor and will say, this is a valid proof or not a valid proof. I think there's also a challenge for students who might say, why do I need to learn math? Because I can ask GPT. I can ask, you know, a computer. I can take out a calculator. And so I think there's something about learning math that is not about the math itself.

Cindy Lawrence [00:25:28]:

It's about being a logical, rational thinker. And, yes, you can go online and have a problem solved using AI, but there can be problems that come up in life that require rational evaluation, logical thinking, analysis. And I think if you train yourself in mathematical thinking and mathematical reasoning skills, it helps you in life in many decisions and many things that you may come across. And so while those are useful tools, I still think, you know, we want children to learn how to think rationally and logically and how to problem solve. I also think there's something that we don't like failing, right? Nobody likes to try something and not be successful, but failing is part of succeeding. And I think math is a very good vehicle for conveying that message. So you got the wrong answer. Let's not walk away from that problem.

Cindy Lawrence [00:26:28]:

Let's look at where did you go wrong? Why did you get this answer instead of that answer? You had a great insight here. Wow. You were really trucking. Oh, you just had a small mistake here or you had a mistake in your logic over there. And the idea is that it takes several failures to succeed, and that should be part of the learning process, and that should be celebrated. And even when you get the wrong answer, the fact that you had some critical thinking along the way is to be celebrated. And I think our best teachers do a great job of that in the classroom where it's not about just getting the answer. It's about how did you get there? A friend of mine used to teach in a high school, in a private high school, and he would give a very interesting kind of test.

Cindy Lawrence [00:27:17]:

He would give a test and he would give all the answers. And the only grade was based on your being able to show work to show how you might get the answer. And the other thing he did was he only gave a 100, a perfect score on tests. And but that didn't mean you got a 100 the first time. So if the first time through, you made some mistakes, that was fine. Now it was up to you to figure out where your mistakes were with his help, the help of others, and try again. And the only grade that counted was your last final submission of that test. So I love that philosophy.

Liza Holland [00:27:55]:

That is magical. I love that.

Cindy Lawrence [00:27:57]:

Everyone can succeed and everyone can get an a in the class. You might succeed on the first try, and I might do the same problem three times. But at the end of the day, we're not being evaluated differently. We are both being given that a that students sometimes strive for because we have both shown mastery of that problem and that material. And I love that because it really does underscore that it's a path that we're on. It's not you know, we don't jump from the start to the end. There's a path we go on, and some paths are shorter and some are longer. Some might argue taking the longer path is sometimes more rewarding.

Cindy Lawrence [00:28:35]:

Sometimes you take more away from it. Sometimes you'll remember it better because you struggled. So a productive struggle is not a bad thing in life and it's not a bad thing in math either.

Liza Holland [00:28:46]:

I could not agree more that how, what a great story and what a great way to approach your students. I mean, I just we have so little of that in our very structured type of system. They want you to learn a bazillion facts. And, really, it needs to be about that thought process and being able to overcome failure and all those pieces. Oh, kudos to your friend. I love that.

Cindy Lawrence [00:29:12]:

Thank you.

Liza Holland [00:29:14]:

So obviously, for some people, math is a hard sell. What do you find are the biggest challenges in engaging people with, with MoMath?

Cindy Lawrence [00:29:22]:

I think the biggest challenge is the preconceived notion. We come to the word math with whatever our experience was. And for many people, that experience was one of feeling incompetent or a failure of not understanding something of seeing people around you, maybe getting it more quickly than you do. There's so much emotional baggage that comes with that. So I will say we get many visitors who come to the museum who of course love math, and that's why they come. But we get many visitors who hate math and why would somebody who hates math come to the museum of math? It's almost always because they're coming with somebody. So you have 2 partners and one partner hates math and one partner loves math. And so one is kind of dragging the other one along.

Cindy Lawrence [00:30:08]:

We'll just stay for a couple hours and then we'll go out to a nice lunch or we'll go catch a Broadway show. Another example are parents who say, gosh, I was never any good in math. My child, I want them to succeed more than I did. So this is a good place to take my kids. So I don't like math, but I'm going to take my kids. It'll be good for them. Inevitably, what happens is that partner who came in that didn't like math and was just, you know, agreed to stay for a few hours or the parent who came in for the benefit of their children end up having an even more rewarding experience in the museum because they walk in and they look around and they say, wait, this isn't the math that I think of as math. Wow.

Cindy Lawrence [00:30:45]:

This is a fun I'm gonna paint with symmetries. I'm gonna stand on a floor that puts up cool patterns under my feet. I'm gonna ride a tricycle with square wheels. I'm gonna move around some railroad tracks and watch how these little beavers scurry along those tracks. It's all fun and engaging. And very often people will come up to us at the end of their visit and say, well, I came because my child loves math, or I brought my 2 children because my daughter loves math, but I dragged my son kicking and screaming. But now it's my son who doesn't wanna leave. It's the child who didn't want to come that doesn't want to leave.

Cindy Lawrence [00:31:21]:

And to me, that's the biggest success we can have is that we have someone come in with a preconceived notion about what math is and leave with a different notion. So that is both our biggest challenge. And also when, when we do it right, our biggest accomplishment.

Liza Holland [00:31:36]:

Oh, that's pretty magical. I love that. So as you think about your approach to math and what MoMath can do, when you look at the the greater education system, what would you want decision makers to know around what we're doing with math?

Cindy Lawrence [00:31:55]:

Oh, that's hard. I think some of what we we talked about with looking at math as a puzzle and as something where failing is not the end, but it's just a part of the path to success. I think trying to bring in little tidbits of things that are interesting and compelling. It's very hard to do this in a classroom because we don't have enough instructional hours. We have standards. We have state testing. This is what we use to evaluate how our students are doing, how our teachers are doing, how our educational system is performing, and there just aren't enough hours to get all of that across and then also interject on a daily basis the fun stuff. But I would say interjecting that at least periodically and not moving away from physical manipulatives as early as we do.

Cindy Lawrence [00:32:45]:

So there's a lot of physical things in a math classroom in kindergarten and first grade, maybe in 2nd grade. By 3rd, 4th grade, it's just pen and paper. We lose the playful aspects. And if there is a way to interject that, even if it's one fun afternoon a month or something you share with students, of course, if people are in the New York city area, bringing theirs their students, their children, if their families to MoMath is great. And we run a lot of online programs as well. But in the classroom, it would be great if we could incorporate more of this idea that math is accessible to everyone. Some people may come at it at a different rate or from a different speed failure. It's just a path to success and math should be playful and joyful.

Cindy Lawrence [00:33:36]:

Those are the things that I wish could be incorporated. And I realized it's so easy to sit here and say that, and so very hard to implement change and to be sure that that change will work in the same positive way in every classroom for every student. So these are challenging questions.

Liza Holland [00:33:56]:

Well, the thing to me is that, you know, if you've first, you don't succeed, you try another way and that iterative process where maybe the first time you try it in your classroom, it doesn't work, but maybe you'll tweak it just differently. And all of a sudden catch 1, 1 student that's like, And what a moment, just like you're having all of these wonderful converts from, from your visitors there.

Cindy Lawrence [00:34:21]:

Absolutely. And we do talk about that moment. And to me, that's the best moment in the museum. When I hear someone just say with such joy in their voice, that's so cool. And I'll be walking through the museum and just randomly hear those three words to

Liza Holland [00:34:37]:

me

Cindy Lawrence [00:34:37]:

when I hear those three words. That's why I'm coming to work every day to hear those three words.

Liza Holland [00:34:42]:

Well, that is a wonderful and beautiful place to leave our conversation. Thank you so very much for taking the time and I will make sure to put in our show notes, your location and the link to to MoMath and whatnot so our listeners when they're in New York can stop by and see the greatness that, that you have there.

Cindy Lawrence [00:35:03]:

Wonderful. Thank you. I should mention we're at 225 5th Avenue, but we hope to be moving in 2026 to a newer, bigger location. So stay tuned for news on that, which we hope to have soon.

Liza Holland [00:35:15]:

Oh, how exciting. You'll have to call me back when you have a grand opening. I love it.

Cindy Lawrence [00:35:19]:

Absolutely. Alright. Thank you so much.

Liza Holland [00:35:22]:

Thanks, Cindy.

Cindy Lawrence [00:35:23]:

Take care.

Liza Holland [00:35:25]:

Thank you so much for listening to this episode of Education Perspectives. Feel free to

Liza Holland [00:35:30]:

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