Il Laboratorio di Bhaskara: la Matematica incontra la Città! (literally: Bhaskara's Laboratory: Mathematics meets the City!) is a collection of mathematical events organized by Emanuela Ughi in the occasion of the Piano Lauree Scientifiche in Umbria (Italy).
The core material is the “Laboratorio di Bhaskara sulla Visione”, offered by the sponsor Bhaskara s.r.l. (University Spinoff, focused in the planning, realization and commercialization of teaching materials for mathematics) (www.bhaskara.it) : it is a collection of 11 exhibits on the perspective and the vision; they are made in such a way they can easily disassembled and put in a big box (12 kg), so that the exhibition can easily travel; when open, the collection allows a true hands-on exhibition worth one-hour visit.
So, the activity is planned this way: several high school teachers in Umbria declared their interest, and visited the exhibition at the University, under Emanuela Ughi's guidance and explainations. Then the exhibition travelled around, beeing at disposal of each school for about 3 weeks.
Each school was requested to organize an exhibtion for general public, in which the students had to explain the exhibits and the related mathematical concepts to the public.
Of course, the teachers had to prepare their students in advance about the arguments related to the exhibition ; the key role of the University proposer was not only to offer deep mathematical material and theorical explainations, but also to support the teachers and their students in several ways (from emotional to organizing point of view).
The exhbition in 2011 and 2012 visited already 7 different towns in Umbria, and – right now- the tour is still travelling.
The “basic” request for the participants was to organize an exhibition in the classes of the school, but some teacher tried something more “exciting”: for example, we had temporary exhibition even in the Biblioteca Comunale (City Library) (Terni, Gubbio), in a crowdy day in front of a big supermarket (Gubbio) , and in an old church with frescoes during the Saint Patron Fair (Perugia).
The project involved about 20 teachers, 200 students, and an extimated public of 5000 people, whose free comments were usually enthousiast.
The local community was reached by the continuous attention of media (press and local TV) for the events.
First of all, the experience can be considered as a teaching experiment: the teachers judged the experience as very useful and rewarding for their students, who felt responsible for the explainations they gave, so that they carefully studied the subject, and tried to improve their performance as a guide. Some good students felt also challenged to build more exhibits (even if in a very simple way) or to write posters to better explain the mathematical subject; a school organized a theatrical performance in a purposely made scenography related to the exhibition. There was also a cooperating experience between schools of different towns, reciprocally visiting to share advices or comments about the various arrangements of the exhibition.
More teaching challenges arose from the exhibition, and, righ now, several good students are working to realize their own “linear anamorphosis” representing the logo of their school on a long wall outside the school.
But the event largely increased beyond the school context: the mail idea “in large” and the value of the project is that usually people go to the museums (where avaluable), while here we tried to bring (a sort of) museum directly to the people, turning inusual locations in temporary museums.
Moreover, the hands-on features of the exhibition and the engagement of the young guides had the effect to appeal and impress the public, offering that way a mathematical experience to many surprised people.
The activity can be easily replied (even on a bigger scale respect our event, which was only related to the Umbria territory).
The box containing the exhibition can be purchased at www.bhaskara.it (it requires some months, since it is hand-crafted on demand). Then the only need is a University leader, and a web of good willing teachers...and a lot of work.