Geometry Playground takes shape in SF

New Exploratorium exhibit angles to move geometry from the textbook realm to the experiential realm with displays like cool 3D climbing structures.

Does the thought of geometry bring back stressful high-school math memories? Geometry Playground, a new exhibit opening Friday at San Francisco's Exploratorium, could help you rethink your associations with proofs, polygons, and acute angles by moving geometry from the textbook realm to, well, the playground realm.

The exhibit includes a series of experiential displays that let you do things like crawl inside giant 3D spaces; watch yourself in a big curved mirror as you try to play hopscotch; look into a tapered kaleidoscope to see a live video creating a 120-sided shape; and use a flashlight to "draw" in the air around yourself and then see your movements manifest as geometric sketches on a large video screen.

Geometry-related films such as "Between the Folds," which chronicles artists and scientists who devote their time to modern origami, will accompany the exhibit, as will workshops focused on geometric problem-solving through activities like paper folding, lacemaking, crochet, and tessellating (creating perfectly fitting patterns of shapes).

Geometry Playground stays in San Francisco through September 6 and then moves on to San Diego; St. Paul, Minn.; and other cities. It's made possible by the National Science Foundation and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. Click on the gallery to the right to get a sense of how Geometry Playground is shaping up.

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