Sunday, January 17, 2016

Julia Robinson Math Festivals: a noncompetitive problem solving event for middle and high school students

Julia Robinson Mathematics Festivals inspire students to explore the richness and beauty of mathematics through activities that encourage collaborative, creative problem-solving. The Festival provides an alternative to the competitive culture of math contests, with tables dedicated to different problems and activities, each with a mathematician standing by to offer guidance and encouragement without giving away too much. Says the Festival's Mathematics Director, Joshua Zucker, "We offer intriguing and challenging problems, puzzles, and activities, and a supportive setting for kids who like to take their time working on a problem. Students make whatever progress they make, they get help, they work with other kids, and eventually come to some kind of stopping point and go find another activity of interest."

Most festivals are aimed at students in grades 6 - 12, although some will be more tightly focused or accommodate younger students. They can be set up for children come with their parents, or as a school field trip.  Some regions have them annually, but they are not yet super wide-spread.  Emory will be hosting our first next weekend, and I'm super excited! Some (but not all) of the problems and activities used at these festivals are available online, and would also work well for math circles.

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