Math Fairs – That’s A Good Problem
Dr. Ted Lewis and Dr. Andy Liu of the Mathematics Department, University of Alberta started Math Fairs. Like all good ideas, we borrowed theirs and added a bit of our own personality based on the needs and requests of teachers in our area. We are grateful to them for supporting us.
A Math Fair is a problem-solving fair. Unlike a Science Fair, a Math Fair is all inclusive and noncompetitive. See the guidelines for conducting a Math Fair.
Schools are invited to send a team of 4 or 5 teachers to a professional development session. The focus of this meeting is:
- to actively explore a number of ‘good’ problems. These are problems that ask students to look for connections, to develop relationships, to look for patterns, to make conjectures and to develop effective models.
- to provide suggestions for introducing problem-solving and problems to students
- to provide information about hosting a school Math Fair
After this initial introduction, teachers return to their schools with a number of good math problems from the Math Fair booklet, as well as the problems from the Galileo website which they then introduce to their students and school staffs. Dr. Sharon Friesen, Krista Francis-Poscente both of Galileo Educational Network, Dr. Jean Springer, Mathematics Department, University of Calgary, Dr. Eva Nosal, Pacific Institute of Mathematics, and Dr. Indy Lagu, Head of Mathematics Physics and Engineering, Mt. Royal College take turns going to each of the schools participating in Math Fairs for a full day onsite professional development. During the time teachers and students are working on the math problems that they will be presenting at the Math Fair the mathematicians and mathematics educators assist students and teachers to develop extensions to the problems, explore ways to provide hints and ensure that they are comfortable with the Math Fair problems they have designed.
As a culmination to the problem solving work that the students and teachers do, each school hosts a Math Fair at which students set up a display of their math problems, but not the solutions to the problems. Students entice their parents and invited guests to work through their math problems. Mathematicians and mathematics educators are present at this evening event as well to respond to student’s problems and speak with parents about mathematics education.