Franklin's Mirror Maze Explores Numbers in Nature

Explore math patterns in nature at the Mirror Maze exhibit.

The Franklin Institute's current educational exhibit is worth exploring this summer. Mirror Maze is an interactive exhibit that introduces patterns and tells us how math surrounds us everywhere. The highlight of the exhibit is a 1,700 square foot maze of mirrors that will challenge you and your children to reach the exit.

We learn that patterns are the result of nature’s forces and processes. From the rings of Saturn to sunflower seeds, patterns are present everywhere in nature. 

My kids both enjoy math, so numbers in nature was of interest to them. They learned of math patterns present —the spiral of seashell, ridges of mountains and the Universe’s structure. Understanding patterns reveals why our bodies and buildings, for example, are shaped the way they are and why they function as they do.

The exhibit explores fractal patterns that are rough, irregular and jagged. The kids and their friend were curious to learn about this. As a tree grows, each branch divides into smaller limbs. Observing a mountain’s jagged peaks reveals each peak is like the whole range, just smaller. Fractal patterns reveal the simplicity that lies beneath the complexity of nature. Fascinating!   

The kids were intrigued by the interactive displays, especially “musical reflection” where they could hear symmetry and “playing with proportion” where they plucked long and short strings to hear that one sounds twice as high as the other.

I found it interesting to look at the branching pattern in your eye. By looking through an eyepiece, tiny dots that are red blood cells at the back of your eye are visible. When you blink, spidery black lines appear, shadows of capillaries that bring blood to your eye lens.  

A Mirror Maze runs through September 4, so plan your visit while it's still here.

Erin Flynn Jay is a Philadelphia writer, public relations executive and mom of two girls. This post was adapted from her blog, Mastering the Mommy Track.

Categories: MomSpeak