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Wendy Constantine MUSE 123 (grad) May 19, 2004

Summative Evaluation of

Mathematica: A World of Numbers and Beyond Prepared for the Boston Museum of Science By Wendy Constantine, Daniel Elias, Gwen Frankfeldt, Abby Haskell, Bronwyn Low and Lesley Schoenfeld

Abstract The compact and elegantly designed exhibition Mathematica: A World of Numbers and Beyond continues to draw in and engage a wide range of visitors four decades after its initial design was established by the now infamous designing duo, Charles and Ray Eames. The near dizzying array of information presented, combined with the abstract subject matter presented, resulted in some interesting patterns in visitor behavior. Most notably, a great dichotomy was revealed in the types of exhibits visitors were drawn to and spent the most time. Tracking and Timing, Exit Surveys, Exit Interviews, Component Observations and a case study were conducted at the Boston Museum of Science to determine how audiences today respond to the dated exhibition. This information may be useful to assess whether or not changes or updates should be made to the content or visitor experience in general. This report will focus on the Tracking and Timing results and correlate the data from other instruments when appropriate. 50 visitors were tracked and timed for a total of 8 hours. Given the relatively intimate scale (approx. 3200 sq. ft.) and number of components (12) in Mathematica, compared to most science museum exhibitions, it is not too surprising that the Sweep Rate Index (SRI) was lower than average at 336.8.1 This indicates that visitors spent more time per square footage than the average science museum exhibition. On average, visitors spent 9.5 minutes in the exhibition. There were also an extremely high percentage of diligent visitors (46%) than the average for science museums (13.5%), indicating that almost half of all visitors stopped at 50% or more of the components.2 Tracking and Timing demographic data revealed that visitors were primarily Female (56%), visited in Family Groups (52%) or Adults Alone (20%), and either in the 31-40 yr. age group (36%) or 20-30 yr. age group (20%). Family Groups spent the most amount of time in the

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exhibition (9.5 minutes), with children aged 10-12 spending the most time (11.4 minutes). Gender did not play a significant role in predicting visitor behavior. Visitors responded to the complexity of Mathematica in a number of ways. A relatively small percentage of visitors (25%) were attracted to the Static components in general (History Wall, Reading Stands, Left and Right Image Wall and the Models Case). However, those who were drawn to the History Wall in particular, spent an extraordinary amount of time absorbing the information, averaging 3.5 minutes. 27% of visitors who stopped at the History Wall studied it for more than 5 minutes, and the maximum time spent at any single component was at the History Wall (13 minutes). The Left Image Wall, another Static component, had the second highest time at 10 minutes. For many, these components may have been perceived as too much work to comprehend or the subject matter outside their area of interest. Yet the numbers indicate a high level of aesthetic and/or intellectual engagement with the Static components when they were visited. This met with the designers initial goals of the exhibition to make learning an active process of sorting through an overwhelming amount of information.3 Kinetic exhibits (Probability, Moebius Strip, Celestial Mechanics, Minimal Surfaces and the Sand Pendulum) were the most successful overall at attracting and holding audiences. Probability was the most attractive component (80% of visitors), but Celestial Mechanics was the most engaging (average of 2.1 minutes) after the History Wall. The Right Image Wall (12% of visitors) and Reading Stands (14% of visitors) were the least attractive components. It is interesting to note that these components lack the degree of visual complexity that the History Wall has. Secondly, the proximity of the noisy Probability exhibit to the Right Image Wall most likely distracted visitors from spending more time. Similar to the research findings on the Handling Calculus exhibition at the Science Museum of Minnesota, kinetics have proven to play an essential role in the encouragement of longer and deeper interactions at exhibits in Mathematica.4 Although they refer to the “kinesthetic� approach towards learning in Handling Calculus, exhibits in Mathematica rarely involved movement by the visitor, only the component. Nevertheless, exhibits that displayed motion were more socially engaging, as more visitors asked questions (15%) or commented on the exhibit (50%) than Static or Interactive Only exhibits. Interestingly, Static components encouraged little social interaction overall (28% of visitors commented and 6% asked questions). Finally, the study showed that Interactive exhibits (that were not Kinetic, including the Fun Mirror and Projective Geometry) had a low holding power on average (.8 minutes). This can be explained by the observation that the activity offered by the exhibit was finite in duration and completed in a relatively short amount of time.

Introduction Description of Mathematica Mathematica: A World of Numbers and Beyond is an exhibition about mathematical concepts and the history of their development. It consists of 5 interactive elements, two walls with images illustrating math concepts, and a timeline with images and text describing major

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developments in math up to 1961, and two cases of three-dimensional mathematical models. The exhibit is fenced off from the rest of the museum by a metal gate structure, and identified by large gold letters. This exhibition was designed in 1961 by Charles and Ray Eames, a husband and wife team, most widely known for their mid 20th century furniture designs. In addition to their famous chair, the Eameses were also noted architects and filmmakers, as well as designers of special-purpose exhibitions. Mathematica, their first exhibition, was sponsored by IBM and installed in three locations: Los Angeles, Atlanta and Boston. Currently, the exhibition is installed and open to the public only in Boston. It should also be noted that one of the original components, the Multiplication Cube, was replaced with the Sand Pendulum exhibit. Thus, the behavior interaction with the Sand Pendulum serves as a point of comparison to the rest of the exhibition to indicate the effectiveness of introducing a new element, not designed by the Eameses, to the experience. This point is also significant in that the sponsors of the exhibition, IBM, have not permitted content or style changes to any of the remaining components, despite the fact that some of the information presented is now inaccurate. Additionally, Mathematica also includes a series of placards hanging from the ceiling, that display quotes about mathematics. Although this element contributes to the aesthetic character and humorous tone of the exhibit, it was not included in this study. Summary of the Goals of the Exhibition A. The designers of Mathematica, the Office of Charles and Ray Eames, intended in 1961 to “broaden the image of mathematics in the mind of the uninitiated.”5 They wanted to instill a sense of “excitement, adventure, and suspense” towards mathematics to museum-goers through observing and participating in the exhibition.6 B. The Eameses also sought to dramatize the history and concepts of math without losing its complexity. As in their numerous films, the designers presented complex messages through layered displays of information. They intentionally aimed to present more data than can be comprehended in order to illustrate that the integration of information (or learning) is an active experience. C. They intended the exhibition to “appeal to a ten-year-old as well as a physicist.”7 Visitors young and old, mathematical novices and experts, would have the capacity to obtain a “richer knowledge about old familiar numbers” through the exhibition.8 D . Aesthetically, the designers sought to instill in the audience a sense of the elegance and beauty of mathematics through 2d graphic images and 3d conceptual models. E. Affective goals include the display of “joy and excitement that mathematicians find in pursuing their science,” and to encourage visitors to “experience the fun that is science.”9 Purpose of the Evaluation Study

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This study will be conducted to assess the impact of Mathematica on today’s audiences. The study will also provide information for possible remediation of the exhibition. As part of this process, we will attempt to define what effect, if any, the historical context and aesthetics of the exhibition have on visitors today, and whether or not renovations should be made to make the content and/or design more current. The various types of components (static, kinetic and interactive exhibits) will also be evaluated for their ability to attract and engage audiences. The social dimension of the exhibition will also be studied to determine patterns of visitor interaction with each other and the exhibits. Audience for the Evaluation Report The primary audience for this evaluation report consists of the Boston Museum of Science Exhibit and Education departments. Overview of the Final Product A written report will be provided summarizing and detailing the study findings. This portion of the report will focus on the Tracking and Timing results. Quantitative data will be presented in graphs and analyzed. Data gathered from other evaluation instruments (survey, exit questionnaire, case study and exhibit observations) will be referenced when appropriate, yet discussed in more complete detail in other documents.

Major Questions to be Addressed (* denotes questions to be addressed most completely in this report) 1. How does the dated nature of the exhibition affect visitors? a. Does the audience recognize the importance of the exhibition as an “historical artifact�? b. Is the historical/aesthetic character important to visitors? c. Should changes be made to clearly communicate the dated nature of the exhibition and the resultant errors in information? 2. Who comes to this exhibition? a. What percentage of visitors work with mathematics in their daily lives? b. * Gather data on age, gender, group size and type of visitor population. 3. How do people use the exhibits? a. * Compare time spent and behaviors displayed at interactive and kinetic components with static, reading/looking elements. b. Do groups interact in the exhibit? c. * How much time do visitors spend (as a whole, by age group, gender and group type) in the exhibition? d. * What exhibits are the most attractive and engaging?

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e. * Are there preferred pathways through the exhibition? 4. What do people think of Mathematica? a. Does the exhibition communicate a sense of wonder and excitement towards mathematics? b. What elements are memorable? c. * Are the goals of the designers accomplished? d. What elements do visitors report as the least and most enjoyable? 5. What is the long-term impact of Mathematica? a. For repeat visitors, what do they remember from previous visits? b. Do they have memories or anecdotes about lasting effects in their lives? c. Profile a case study.

Audience to be Included in the Study The audience of the study includes a general cross-section of Museum of Science visitors, whether in organized or informal groups, or alone. Observations will be made at various times of day, including both weekends and weekdays.

Timeline • March 24, 2004:

Presentation of final protocols and instruments

• April 12, 2004:

Data acquisition/observations complete

• April 21, 2004:

Presentation of raw data

• May 19, 2004:

Presentation of final report

Methodology A brief overview of methodology The primary method of data collection for this report is Tracking and Timing (Appendix A). User engagement with the components, time spent and path taken through exhibition will be captured in this document. Visitor demographics will also be noted, including age group, gender, size and type of group (see instrument, Appendix A, for detail). The evaluator will also note pre-selected behaviors, including if a visitor manipulates, comments on or asks questions about an exhibit. Protocol for data collection requires the random selection of 50 visitors. Every third visitor over the age of 10 to enter the exhibition will be tracked for data collection. If a group enters, the member in the closest proximity to the evaluator will be selected. A sign will be placed at the entrance to inform visitors of the evaluation in progress.

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Tracking and Timing data was collected on the following days: • MON 3/29/04 from 9:50 AM – 11:15 AM • WED 3/31/04 from 10:53 AM – 1:18 PM • TUES 4/6/04 from 1:30 PM – 2:50 PM • FRI 4/9/04 from 7:05 PM – 8:54 PM • SAT 4/17/04 from 11:38 AM – 12:59 PM and 2:36 PM – 3:33 PM

Results and Discussion Demographics of Mathematica Visitor Population The Tracking and Timing results reveal that 56% of visitors tracked in this study were between the ages of 20 and 40 years, with slightly more visitors (36%) in the 31-40 years age group (Chart 1). It is important to note that visitors in the 51-60 and 60+ age groups are noticeably missing from the data collection results. The gender composition was nearly split, with 44% Male and 56% Female visitors (Chart 2). Most came in groups (34% in groups of 3) (Chart 4), and typically in family groups (52%) (Chart 3). Adults visiting only with other adults was the second highest group (20%) observed. Children were rarely unsupervised (2%) and few school groups visited the exhibition (6%, or 3 visitors). Teens usually visited in small groups (2-4 per group) and were less likely to visit the exhibition (8%) than adults visiting alone (12%). Overall, visitors were nearly six times more likely to be visiting Mathematica in a group than alone. As family groups were the most significant group observed, it is important to note that the gender split within this group was nearly split and identical to the overall population (46% male and 54% female). The majority (50%) of family group members tracked were in the 3140 years age group. Not surprisingly, adults visiting in groups without children were on average younger, with 60% in the 20-30 year age group, and slightly more males (60%) than females (40%). Adults visiting alone, were most likely to be female (67%) and in the 20-30 age group (50%) or 31-40 age group (33%). The demographic data captured through Tracking and Timing is statistically consistent with the other methods of evaluation, including Component Observations, Interviews and Exit Surveys. Tracking and Timing data displayed only a slight increase in Female visitors and visitors in the 31-40 age group in comparison to the other instruments.

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Chart 1: Visitor Demographics Age 40% 36%

Percentage of Visitors

35% 30% 25% 20%

20% 15% 10%

12%

12%

10%

10%

5% 0% 10–12

13–15

16–19

20–30

31–40

41–50

Age in Years

Chart 2: Visitor Demographics Gender 60%

56%

50%

Percentage of Visitors

44% 40%

30%

20%

10%

0% Male

Female

7

0%

0%

51–60

61+


Chart 3: Visitor Demographics Group Type 60% 52%

Percentage of Visitors

50%

40%

30% 20%

20%

12% 8%

10%

6%

2% 0% Family

Adults Only

Kids Only

Teens

School Group

Alone

Chart 4: Visitor Demographics Group Size 40% 34%

Percentage of Visitors

35% 30% 24%

25% 20% 15%

18%

12%

12%

10% 5% 0% 1

2

3

4

5+

# of Visitors in Each Group

Pathways Through the Exhibition The majority (80%) of visitors tracked entered on the right side of the entrance and immediately turned right (85%). This might indicate that visitors are most likely to visit Mathematica shortly after entering the Blue Wing, and therefore less likely (20%) to enter the exhibition while traveling down the corridor towards the main entrance/exit turnstile. This could be explained by museum fatigue and their selective focus of attention after being at

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the museum for more than 30-40 minutes (Serrell, 98)10. Visitors who did enter on the left were most likely (60%) to continue traveling on left side of the exhibition. Visitors overall were most likely to stop first at either Celestial Mechanics (32%) or the Models Case (28%). This finding is largely due to the proximity of the exhibits to the entrance. It is interesting to note that neither exhibit mentioned above were the most attractive overall. Celestial Mechanics ranked fourth in total visit counts with 62% of visitors stopping, and the Models Case ranked sixth with 48% of visitors stopping. This suggests that 60% of the visitors tracked stopped at an exhibit before they reached the Probability exhibit, in which 80% of visitors stopped. The kinetic nature of this exhibit (discussed in more detail below) and sound created by the motion may be responsible for the high drawing power of Probability. In general, the pathways visitors took through the exhibition, when analyzed in connection to the behaviors recorded and time spent at each component, can be categorized in the following ways: All Over: 6% of visitors displayed complex patterns of travel, yet showed little actual engagement with components. This pattern was most often seen with a parent watching after children or a group, but this behavior was also recorded of a teenaged boy. Browser: 20% of visitors took a simple pathway through a small area of the exhibition, visiting 3 or less components and displaying little engagement or manipulation of exhibits. Visitors in this category spent less than 5 minutes total in the exhibition, and often less than 2 minutes. Sweeper: 38% of visitors traveled in a clear, geometric pathway, visiting 4 or more components, but spent less than 10 minutes total in the exhibition. Engaged: 32% of visitors meandered through most of the exhibition, visiting 5 or more components and frequently manipulating or commenting on exhibits. Engaged visitors spent more than 10 minutes total in the exhibition. Studier: 4% of visitors were very selective about the few components they visited, but spent more than 5 minutes at a single component. Time Spent in the Exhibition Tracking and Timing data includes a total observation time 8 hours. The 50 visitors observed spent an average of 9.5 minutes in the exhibition and stopped at an average of 5 out of 12 components (Chart 5). Mathematica is contained in a relatively small environment (approx. 3200 sq. ft.) and has fewer components than most science museum exhibitions. Thus, it is not surprising that the Sweep Rate Index (SRI) of 336.8 was lower than average (359.9), indicating that visitors spent more time per square footage than the average science museum exhibition. There were also an extremely high percentage of diligent visitors (46%) than the average for science museums (13.5%), showing that almost half of all visitors stopped at 50% or more of the components.11

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Chart 5: Number of Stops Made by Visitors in Mathematica 18% 16%

16%

14%

Percentage of Visitors

14% 12%

12%

12%

12%

10%

10%

10%

8% 6%

6% 4%

4% 2%

2%

2% 0%

0% 1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

# of Component Stops

The data represents a near even distribution between Male (9.7 minutes) and Female (9.5 minutes) visitors, with Males on average visiting more components (6) than Females (5) and spending slightly more time (9.7 minutes) than Females (9.4 minutes). Gender proved to be an insignificant point of comparison in the Tracking and Timing results as a whole. Overall, the data range for time spent in the exhibition was quite long (from 1 minute to 35 minutes), and given the relatively small sample size, averages may not be very useful in this analysis. Incidentally, the visitor who spent 35 minutes in the exhibition was Male, aged 20-30 and visited in a group of 2 (Adults Only). This particular visitor stopped at all twelve components and spent the most time at Minimal Surfaces (7 minutes).

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Chart 6: Average Time Spent in Mathematica by Age Group 12.0

11.4 10.6

Time Spent in Minutes

10.0

9.5

9.0

8.8

8.6

8.0

6.0

4.0

2.0

0.0 10–12

13–15

16–19

20–30

31–40

41–50

0.0

0.0

51–60

61+

Age Group

Children ages 10-12 spent the most time on average (11.4 minutes) in the exhibition, followed by adults ages 20-30 (10.6 minutes). (Chart 6) This data can be incidentally correlated with Observation results in that children were often noted for lingering after being called or dragged away by parent. Family Groups spent the most time in the exhibition (9.5 minutes) and they also visited the most components (6). (Chart 7) Groups of Adults Only followed (7.5 minutes), visiting the same above average number of components as Family Groups. Groups of Teens typically spent the least time (4.5 minutes), but visited an average number of components. Visitors who came alone are the most difficult to quantify in that 3 spent more than 10 minutes, but 2 only spent less than 3.5 minutes, bringing the average down to 5.5 minutes. This suggests that independent visitors were either very interested in Mathematica and took their time, or breezed through it with less interest. School groups visited the least number of components (3) but spent an average of 7 minutes in the exhibition.

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Chart 7: Average Time Spent in Mathematica by Group Type 10.0

9.5

9.0

Time Spent in Minutes

8.0

7.5 7.0

7.0 6.0

6.0

5.5

5.0

4.5

4.0 3.0 2.0 1.0 0.0 Family

Adults Only

Kids Only

Teens

School Group

Alone

Attractiveness and Holding Power of Exhibits The 12 components observed in Tracking and Timing data collection were categorized by type (Static, Kinetic Only, Interactive Only and both Kinetic and Interactive). Surprisingly, Static elements (Models Case, History Wall, Right and Left Image Wall and Reading Stands) although below average in attractiveness (25% of visitors overall), retained visitors for a well above average amount of time (2.1 minutes per component). (Charts 8, 9 and 10) The History Wall was in some respects a star performer visitors spent an extraordinary amount of time absorbing the information, averaging 3.5 minutes (Table 3). 27% of visitors who stopped at the History Wall studied it for more than 5 minutes, and the maximum time spent at any single component was at the History Wall (13 minutes). The Left Image Wall, another Static component, had the second highest time at 10 minutes. The Right Image Wall (12% of visitors) and Reading Stands (14% of visitors) were the least attractive components (Chart 1 1 ) . It is interesting to note that these components lack the degree of visual complexity of the History Wall. The close proximity of the Right Image Wall to Probability and its noisy distractions could also account for the low percentage of stops. As Stephen Bitgood suggests in “The Role of Attention in Designing Effective Interpretive Labels”(2000),12 many visitors may have perceived the Static components as too much work to comprehend, or the subject matter was outside their area of interest. Data collected from all the instruments confirm the overwhelming response visitors had to the aesthetic nature of the exhibition. Survey results quote visitors describing their experience in the exhibition as “too hard for dumb people,” “not accessible and text heavy,” and “I am confused.” Interviewees characterized the exhibition as “too much to take in” and “too much info, no one is going to read all of that.” Yet, the Tracking and Timing numbers indicate a high level of aesthetic and/or intellectual engagement with the Static components when they were visited. The History Wall has the

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added distinction of having the max. average time spent value in three consecutive age groups, ranging from 16-40 years old. (Table 4)

Chart 9: Attractiveness by Exhibit Type 50% 46%

Percentage of Total Visit Count

45% 40% 35% 30% 25%

25%

20% 15%

14%

15%

Interactive Only

Kinetic Only

10% 5% 0% Static

13

Kinetic + Interactive


Chart 10: Holding Power by Component Type 2.5 2.1

Average Time in Minutes

2.0

1.5

1.5

1.6

1.0 0.8

0.5

0.0 Static

Interactive Only

Kinetic Only

Kinetic + Interactive

Kinetic exhibits (Probability, Moebius Strip, Celestial Mechanics, Minimal Surfaces and the Sand Pendulum) were the most successful overall at attracting and holding audiences. One visitor explained in an Interview that what he liked best were the things that moved. The visitor continued, “with words you can’t understand math, until shape and movement are put to it.” Probability was the most attractive component (80% of visitors), but Celestial Mechanics was the most engaging (2.1 minutes) on average, after the History Wall (Chart 10). The youngest age groups (10-12 and 13-15) were the most engaged with Celestial Mechanics and often needed to be dragged away from the mesmerizing exhibit, as reported in the Observation data. Similar to the research findings on the Handling Calculus exhibition at the Science Museum of Minnesota, kinetics have proven to play an essential role in the encouragement of longer and deeper interactions at exhibits in Mathematica. Although the Minnesota study refers to the “kinesthetic” approach towards learning, exhibits in Mathematica rarely involved movement by the visitor, only the component. Nevertheless, exhibits that displayed motion were more socially engaging, as more visitors asked questions (15%) or commented on the exhibit (50%) than Static or Interactive Only exhibits. Interestingly, Static components encouraged little social interaction overall (28% of visitors commented and 6% asked questions). This finding was confirmed by Observation data for the History Wall, which reported 22% of visitors as “serious lookers” who were most often alone and talked infrequently about the exhibit (6 times). Finally, the study showed that Interactive exhibits (that were not Kinetic, including the Fun Mirror and Projective Geometry) had a low holding power on average (.8 minutes). This can be explained by the observation that the activity offered was finite in duration and completed in a relatively short amount of time. Visitors had little incentive to stay after completing the activity. Interestingly enough, Projective Geometry was among both the

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least (23% of visitors interviewed) and best-liked (27% of visitors interviewed) components. I suggest the frequent mention of this exhibit may be due to its proximity to the interview location. It is also interesting to note that the Sand Pendulum, an add-on exhibit not designed by the Eameses, rated second highest in attractiveness (76% of visitors) (Chart 11), and third in average time spent (1.8 minutes). Additionally, the highest occurrence of repeat stops was at the Sand Pendulum (Table 2). Another interesting note is that the functionality of Moebius Strip, which was not working 20% of the time observed, had little effect on the time spent at the exhibit. Visitors spent an average of .9 minutes when it wasn’t working, and 1 minute when it was. However, visitors were actually more attracted to Moebius when it wasn’t working (60% of visitors, compared to 33% when it was functional.)

TABLE 1: HOLDING POWER BY COMPONENT TYPE Average Time Spent in Minutes

Average Visit Count per Component Type

Static

2.1

13

Kinetic

1.5

40

Kinetic + Interactive

1.6

30.5

Interactive

0.8

19

Component Type

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TABLE 2: OCCURRENCE OF REPEAT STOPS Component Name

Count of Repeat Stops

Sand Pendulum

8

Probability

7

Celestial Mechanics

5

Minimal Surfaces

3

Models

3

History Wall

3

Projective Geometry

2

Reading Stands

2

Chart 11: Attractiveness by Component 90% 80%

80%

76% 68%

50%

62%

60%

60% 48%

38%

40% 30%

30% 20%

26%

14%

12%

16%

10%

16

Minimal Surfaces

Moebius Strip

Celestial Mechanics

Sand Pendulum

Probability

Projective Geometry

Fun Mirror

Right Image Wall

Left Image Wall

History Wall

Reading Stands

0%

Models

Percentage of Visitors

70%


0.9

17 Minimal Surfaces

1.0

Moebius Strip

1.7

Celestial Mechanics

1.9

Sand Pendulum

1.5

Probability

Projective Geometry

0.7

Fun Mirror

Right Image Wall

1.8

Left Image Wall

3.5

History Wall

Reading Stands

2.0

Models

Time Spent in Minutes

Chart 12: Average Time Spent per Component

4.0

3.5

3.0

2.5 2.1

1.8

1.5 1.3

1.0

0.7

0.5

0.0


TABLE 3: AVERAGE TIME SPENT AT COMPONENT AND NUMBER OF STOPS BY VISITORS (N=50) Component Name

Average Time in Minutes

Total # of Stops

History Wall

3.5

15

Celestial Mechanics

2.1

31

Sand Pendulum

1.9

38

Left Image Wall

1.9

13

Models

1.8

24

Right Image Wall

1.7

6

Probability

1.5

40

Minimal Surfaces

1.3

34

Moebius Strip

1.0

19

Projective Geometry

0.9

30

Reading Stands

0.7

7

Fun Mirror

0.7

8

TABLE 4: HIGHEST AND LOWEST AVERAGE TIME SPENT AT INDIVIDUAL COMPONENT BY AGE GROUP Age Group

Component

Max Time

Component(s)

Min Time

10-12 years

Celestial Mechanics

4 min

Various

0 min

Celestial Mechanics

2.5 min

History Wall Right Image Wall

< min

13-15 years

< min

16-19 years

History Wall

6.8 min

Right Image Wall Reading Stands

History Wall

4.3 min

Fun Mirror Reading Stands

< min

20-30 years

History Wall

4.3 min

Fun Mirror Reading Stands

< min

31-40 years 41-50 years

Models

3.2 min

Right Image Wall

< min

TABLE 5: SOCIAL INTERACTIONS BY COMPONENT TYPE 18


% of Visitors Commented on Exhibit

% of Visitors Asked Questions about Exhibit

Static

28%

6%

Kinetic

50%

15%

Kinetic + Interactive

25%

3%

Interactive

42%

0%

Component Type

Effectiveness in Meeting Goals of Exhibition Designers While qualitative data collected from Interviews and Observations may provide a better picture of Mathematica’s ability to instill a sense of “excitement, adventure, and suspense,” it is clear from Tracking and Timing data that visitors continue to be curious about the exhibition’s components. They actively participate in the exhibition, engaging physically, intellectually, aesthetically and socially (to different degrees, according to the type of component). Audiences of all ages and math abilities find something of interest, and often spend a lot of time sorting through the information presented. As the Eames intended, visitors to Mathematica are not passive participants, but active learners who do, read, interact and contemplate the beauty of mathematics. Limitations of Instrument Visitor paths through the exhibition were often very complex and difficult to record. When visitors spent time in front of but not engaged in the component in any way, there was no way to indicate and time this behavior properly. In two instances, visitors left the exhibition and came back in a relatively short period of time (within 2 minutes). Both paths and timing data were included in these cases, although evaluators cannot say with certainty that other visitors tracked did not return to Mathematica after the tracking period ended. One of the components, Moebius Strip, was non-operational for one day during the evaluation, and the impact of this is analyzed above. Other distracting influences could include staff members conducting demonstrations in the exhibition area or just outside, possibly influencing time spent and attraction levels of components. The group type category “Adults Only” was in several cases marked incorrectly by evaluators to include Adults visiting alone, instead of adults without visiting without children. This was rectified by changing entries with # in group = 1 and Adults Only to the Alone group category. Evaluators also often miscounted the number of components visited, and a decision was made to only count a stop if a time value for the stop was provided.

Conclusion Mathematica is not just a “Right-Brain Wonderland,” as one journalist reported.13 The exhibition can be best described as a Right AND Left-Brain Wonderland. The retromodernist design aesthetic clearly reveals the elegance and beauty of numbers for visuallymotivated learners. Analytical thinkers can process the abstract nature of the concepts displayed and make sense of the information in their own way. As found in Patricia Burda’s 1996 study, “Something for Everyone,”14 exhibits need to be accessible to audiences

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with different interests, education levels and abilities. Mathematica provides this without speaking down to anyone. This is despite the fact that the exhibition was designed prior to universal design requirements. Thus, even Static elements encourage active intellectual and aesthetic involvement with the exhibits, which most adult were either captivated by or were disinterested. Children have many opportunities to interact with the exhibits on a physical level, although the “kinesthetic” of most exhibits could be higher to encourage deeper learning. The longevity and dated style of the exhibition proved in Interviews to add to visitor’s fondness of Mathematica, and many considered it a “classic” that should not be changed. Improvements, however, including “fact” corrections and the inclusion of more hands-on activities should be considered. Audiences today continue to be drawn to Mathematica, and perhaps they are even better prepared to deal with the “information overload” aspect than audiences forty years ago.

References 1

Museum of Science, Boston. “The Secrets of Aging” Summative Evaluation (2002).

2

Ibid.

3

Philip C. Repp, “Three Information Design Lessons, Selected Films by Charles and Ray Eames,” Loop: AIGA Journal of Interaction Design Education (April 2001)

4

Science Museum of Minnesota (2003) Handling Calculus Summative Evaluation.

5

Boston Museum of Science (1981) News Release, Executive Summary p. 1.

6

Ibid.

7

Repp (2001)

8

Boston Museum of Science (1981) News Release, Executive Summary p. 1.

9

Boston Museum of Science (1981) Mathematica Exhibition Pamphlet, back cover.

10

Serrell, B. (1998). Paying attention: Visitors and museum exhibitions. Washington, D.C.: American Association of Museums.

11

Museum of Science, Boston. “The Secrets of Aging” Summative Evaluation (2002).

12

Bitgood, Stephen (2000). The Role of Attention in Designing Effective Interpretive Labels, Journal of Interpretation Research, Vol. 5 No. 2. pp. 31-45

13

Hall, Emily. “Right-Brain Wonderland: Charles and Ray Eames’ Absorbing Mathematica,” thestranger.com. (February 2001)

14

Burda, Patricia. (1996). “Something for Everyone.” Museum News, 75, p. 24-7.

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Appendix A: Tracking and Timing Instrument Appendix B: Personal Thoughts and Reflections Appendix C: Tracking and Timing Data Collection Sheets (50 total)

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Mathematica Evaluation1  

"Summative Evaluation of Mathematica: A World of Numbers and Beyond" includes Tracking and Timing, Exit Surveys, Exit Interviews, Component...

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