Ex-analyst finds right equation to fulfill dream
By Pensions & Investments | June 29, 2009
The World Science Festival Street Fair in New York City's Washington Square Park earlier this month did not have the usual midway rides and amusements.
Instead, former hedge fund analyst Glen Whitney debuted his Math Midway — a series of 20 interactive exhibits like the Roller Graphicoaster and the Polyhedral Puzzle Plaza aimed at making math (dare we say it) fun.
“The kids had a great time,” Mr. Whitney said in an interview. “The quote of the day came from one little girl who, pointing to one of the life-size puzzles, yelled out, "Mommy, there's math in there.' That's one soul we've converted.”
The Math Midway is the first step toward Mr. Whitney's ultimate mission: to build the country's first museum of mathematics. Mr. Whitney left Renaissance Technologies LLC late last year after a decade at the $15 billion New York-based hedge fund firm to start the Math Factory, a group dedicated to the project.
“Math can be pretty abstract,” Mr. Whitney said. “We want to show that it's related to everyday life, and that it can be really exciting.”
Mr. Whitney, 40, said he began his “love affair” with math when he was a teenager. One year at summer camp, he broke his collarbone and couldn't participate in any of the sporting activities. “All that was left to do was math, and I found I really liked it,” he said. “I joke that I'm building this museum so other kids don't have to break their collarbones.”
Mr. Whitney said he hopes to create a permanent museum within a few years, and is now looking to raise money from individual donors and grants. “It's early, but so far there's been a lot of interest. "America's only math museum' has a certain amount of curb appeal.” — Jeff Nash