Developing Passions and Interests

Julia Robinson Mathematics Festival

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Just a quick posting about a fun mathematics event I helped coordinate this weekend at my school–the Julia Robinson Mathematics Festival. This event was started in 2007 by Nancy Blachman, a math enthusiast who wanted to provide an opportunity for students to explore math in a fun but non-competitive way. The festival is named after the late Julia Robinson, a professor of mathematics at Berkeley

According to its website, “Julia Robinson Mathematics Festivals inspire students to explore the richness and beauty of mathematics through activities that encourage collaborative, creative problem-solving.”

Students in grades 5 through 8 came together to talk about and solve math problems. While the 5th and 6th graders didn’t quite have the same stamina as the 7th and 8th graders, there was the happy buzz of enthusiasm and collaboration in the MPR. It was great to see students exploring their passion for math and problem-solving in a supporting and collegial environment.

Tables were set up with a table leader (this year, the table leaders were adult math enthusiasts and teachers from the school but next year we’re hoping to tap our former students) and each table had a math problem to solve. Students worked alone, with friends, and with the table leaders to solve the problems. There was no expectation that you would solve all of the problems (or any) and there were math games and puzzles for the students to play if they needed a break from the math problem sets.

It was a great first time event for us and we’re already thinking about how to make it even better for next year.

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