MathFitness is a project with the goal of scientific dissemination run by the A.S.D. “MathFitness” (non-profit association) in partnership with the Università degli Studi di Genova – Facoltà di Scienze M.F.N., and the Associazione Festival della Scienza and with sponsorship from the Comune di Genova.
It is a project conceived by Manuela Arata (president of Festival della Scienza), Giuseppe Rosolini (professor of di mathematical logic at the Università di Genova), and Giovanni Filocamo (technologist at CNR, author and scientific disseminator). The project has been active since the spring of 2006 and operates on a national level by participating in scientific and cultural festivals and by organizing projects for the creative dissemination of mathematics based on demands.
MathFitness offers consultations, designs, organizes, and creates educational, recreational, and formative activities to teach mathematics creatively (workshops, themed activities, events, courses, etc.) aimed at students to complement the teaching of math in schools.
In Europe and Italy, math is a subject that is both difficult for those who approach it and critical in the choice of a formative path — a decisive factor in a student’s choice to pursue scientific disciplines (as Latin is to the humanities in Italy). Math is crucial in order to master modern technologies, which are needed to open doors to work opportunities in fields that are looking for young people who are prepared in scientific and technological disciplines.
In the digital era it should be a priority to emphasize the role of math in our society, in order to encourage students make choices in this direction and their families to support them. It is vital to invest in the teaching of mathematics, as well as raise awareness in families, who often underestimate its importance or even discourage their children from pursuing the subject. Unfortunately, there is a common perception that “normal” people don’t understand math, and that those who enjoy it are “geniuses” (and, therefore, exceptions).
These days, those who want to increase their knowledge of mathematics are forced to rely on private lessons, the usefulness of which, despite the high costs, relies on being lucky enough to find a capable tutor. By contrast, those who wish to learn English have many entertaining options: Shenker-style courses, conversations, English-language movies, books, and songs, summer camps, browsing the internet… Similarly, the teaching of math in schools should be complemented by a learning experience that is both fun and effective, available to students and the general public.
Our mission is to help the people of all kinds approach the fascinating language of mathematics by offering a new perspective: math as a tool to solve problems. It is therefore our goal to present mathematics under a new light and challenge the common notion that math is an abstruse and uninteresting discipline. We intend to provide concrete support to the teaching of math in schools by complementing traditional teaching methods with more informal and innovative ones, based on recreation and the practical application of theoretical concepts in a way that encourages in all users a pleasant and relaxed approach to the subject.
We offer the public something that is in some ways similar to what traditional gyms provide. One goes to the gym with a specific goal in mind (to lose weight, to improve strength, endurance, or muscle mass), and MathFitness works similarly: the goal may be to learn more about geometry or improve one’s computational skills, or one can choose a themed bundle to satisfy a curiosity about certain subjects.
The bundles may consist of puzzles and games or outright ‘training regimens’ during which the user can re-examine arguments they studied in school. Exhibits with which to experiment and simple objects that can be used to reproduce the activities in class or at home are also available to the players.
The project aims to create a network of gyms to spread the dissemination of mathematics. Do you want to join?
The enormous success of the mathematical activities (such as “Le Stanze dei Numeri”, “Matefestival”, and “Apparenza e Realtà” and other workshops) organized for the 2005 Science Festival (held in Genoa from October 27 to November 8 2005), which received more than 20,000 visitors, and the prospect of offering year-long activities to spread education in mathematics became the basis of “MateFitness – La palestra della matematica”.
The Gym was opened in 2006 with a trial period of three months in cooperation with Genova Palazzo Ducale – Fondazione per la Cultura, which housed the project in a space of around 900 square meters in its Sottoporticato from April 20 to July 31.
This period was chosen to guarantee numerous visits from local schools as well as from adults and families. The Gym was supplemented with special activities on weekends (themed treasure hunts, tournaments, team games, competitions) and conferences (from basic dissemination to specialized seminars). After schools closed for the summer, MateFitness offered its services to summer camps and offered teachers the chance to replace part of the students’ summer homework with visits to the Gym.
To design the activities and events, the staff employed the help of an excellent scientific committee for experimentation: Giuseppe Rosolini (DISI), Aldo Conca (DIMA), Bianca Falcidieno (CNR-IMATI), and Orietta Pedemonte (DSA).
In its first three months, the Gym achieved the following:
These achievements marked the success of the trial period. The Gym was therefore re-opened after the end of summer, and it celebrated its sixth anniversary in Palazzo Ducale in 2012.
Our ‘trainers‘ were originally volunteers at the Genoa Science Festival, specially trained by the staff of the project. Later it became possible to involve additional staff members through regular selection periods. The staff are not teachers but entertainers and trainers; they must obviously master the contents, but also have a good understanding of scientific dissemination and edutainment.
The beginning of 2015 marks the birth of the MathFitness association to manage and develop the project (as well as others in the future). The association was founded by the creators of the project: Manuela Arata, Giuseppe Rosolini, and Giovanni Filocamo. Other members are Andrea Viale (treasurer) and Vanessa Bracali (secretary and operations manager, as well as an exceptional collaborator in every respect). A Scientific Council was also founded. It initially consists of:
– Giuseppe Rosolini (President)
– Giovanni Filocamo
– Angelo Guerraggio
– Roberto Lucchetti
– Maurizio Codogno
But this is only the beginning and we plan on adding participation from outside of Italy as well.
The birth of this association was also due to numerous demands, including international ones. It will manage the project in a prompt and dynamic way with the same contents we have always had, as well as many innovations and a scientific side that is even more exhaustive than before.
Our offer includes numerous plans with differing goals, with the aim of having something for everyone. The user is therefore be able to establish from the beginning the timetable and approach that suits them most. The user may consult our activities in the catalogue without restrictions based on time or subject matter (a visit allows the use of the gym for the entire day). They are be able to count on the advice and assistance of our trainers, who will always propose new activities and interpretations. By signing up for the project’s website, they will be able to select their own program, beginning with an initial ‘check up’. They have access to a restricted area of the site, where they will find games and in-depth explanations that they are able to consult remotely.
Together with the University, schools, public institutions, and associations, MathFitness organizes conferences, seminars of various levels and performances by experts and scientists, initiatives for teachers, exchanges with schools or educational institutions. This way, the gym is a “super-workshop”, where users can share experiences and knowledge. It offers teachers the space and the opportunity to try out mathematical activities that they are not able to use during school hours.
Our goal is to open many satellite gyms around the world. Our project was created specifically with the aim of spreading its methods in simple, low-cost ways, incorporating our years of experience and the recreational activities. After ten years we have over 500 activities, and we want to continue forward.
It is now possible to open gyms with a more “museum-like” approach, such as Science Centers, open smaller gyms in every school for no cost, or obtain the materials and the activities necessary to create a traveling gym curated by associations or institutions concerned with scientific education and dissemination. Here are our three offers: Mathematical gyms – Little gyms (for schools) – Traveling gyms (Kit)
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