Math trail open for exploration in Old Town Homer

Homer’s Old Town Math Trail is open for exploration after about six years of preparation by previous Homer High School administrator and math teacher Sunny Mall and idea contributions from several years of Homer High School graduates.

Mall is now retired from K-12 education with the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District and is working at the University of Alaska in Anchorage.

Mall describes a math trail as a way to observe and engage with the theme of math in a physical environment.

“The idea of a math trail is quite simple. You follow a planned route and answer mathematical question related to what you encounter along the way,” according to the trail website.

In the final brochure prepared by Mall and the students, the trail is defined as following a planned route to solve mathematical questions related to what you will find along the way. The Homer trail contains 18 stops in the walkable area of Old Town from the Sterling Highway, down Bunnell Avenue and down to Bishop’s Beach. A paper copy of the trail is available at the Homer Chamber of Commerce and virtual version is available to view at Each stop asks visitors mathematical questions about features of the site.

For example, the first stop on the trail is the Old Town Homer “Welcome Sign.” The questions related to this stop include: What geometrical shapes are there? How many different-sized circular shapes are there?

The brochure asks visitors to look at the wagon wheel at the site and asks how many sectors are in each wheel? How many degrees are in each sector?

Other stops on the trail include St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, Fat Olive’s Restaurant, the FreeWire electric station, the Driftwood Inn, the benches at AJ’s, Wild Honey Bistro, the buoys at Bunnell Gallery, Breezy’s bench on Main Street, Old Inlet Book Shop, Sea Glow Spa and Boutique, Homer Seaside Cottages, the Compass Rose building, Two Sisters Bakery, the loon sculpture at Bishop’s Beach park, Tuyanitun: Tugghet sculpture, the Beluga Slough trail and Alaska Islands and Oceans Center.

Others math features to observe at these various stops include: variations in line lengths and components such as straight, curved, parallel or perpendicular. Also featured are shapes: two-dimensional and three-dimensional, regular versus irregular, open or closed, area and volume.

The idea for the project came from the buoys outside the front door of Bunnell Gallery. In 2017, during a field trip, Mall’s freshman students composed some of the first questions for other sites in Old Town. The more detailed stops with specific authors were written during the summer of 2022 and during the 2022-23 school year. The trail and brochure were finalized in June of 2023.

Some funding was provided by the Carrs Safeway Education Grant awarded to the project, according to Mall. Shanna Mall drafted the Old Town map and other feedback was provided by Lauri Palo, Rebecca Clay, Lucas Thoning, Asia Freeman, and Brad Anderson, along with the Homer Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center.

Mall herself first started looking into the idea of math trails in 1999. There are several international sites included on the math trail website with links to the tours as examples including Copenhagen, Cambridge, Philadelphia, New York City and the University of Alaska Anchorage campus.

There are former students acknowledged on the math trail website that identifies which stop they provided idea contributions to and who the authors were for each site.