Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
A Julia Robinson Mathematics Festival offers students advanced and thought-provoking mathematics in a social and cooperative atmosphere. It’s an event at which students play with mathematics.
Typically, there are a dozen or more tables, each with a facilitator and a problem set, game, puzzle, or activity with mathematical themes. Students play and explore individually or in groups, share insights, and make discoveries. Facilitators provide encouragement and support, striving to ask questions rather than providing suggestions or answers.
Success is not measured by the number of problems solved nor students’ speed, but rather by how long students stay engaged and persevere with activities and by the breadth and depth of their explorations and insights.
Festivals are run locally and supported by a national network. They can address any level of student, from those struggling with mathematics to those who enjoy tackling challenging problems.
Festival activities are designed to open doors to higher mathematics for K through 12 students – doors that are not at the top of the staircase, but right at street level.
- Most of the problems and activities for the festival must come from the Julia Robinson Math Festival.
- There must be mathematical facilitators who support and encourage students during the problem-solving process.
- There must be time and space for facilitator training.
Local organizers usually find local funding for the events. The JRMF organization provides many services at no cost, and local organizations often make contributions in cash or in kind.
Many festivals use our online registration system. Many also charge an attendance fee ($10 per student). Our registration system offers the option to ‘opt out’ of paying the fee for those who consider it a hardship. Local organizes often use registration fees to cover much of the cost of the festival.
We never want finances to be an obstacle to hosting a festival. Julia Robinson Math Festival is a non-profit organization whose mission is to inspire interest, creativity, and collaboration in mathematics among students in grades K-12. We will work with hosts to make festivals affordable or provide grant funding if needed.
Local organizers have had good results reaching out to local Math Circles, either personally or using social media. JRMF can provide flyers to send home with students and share with schools. Often, many attendees are from a school hosting the festival.
The festival works best in a gymnasium or cafeteria-like space. Having all the students in one space is ideal: it promotes collaboration and positive energy among the students. For a first festival, we recommend 100-120 students, so that a host becomes familiar with the logistics of hosting a smaller festival and then would be more capable of accommodating a larger number of students.
Our festivals can be customized for the audience at hand. If you select your intended audience, then JRMF will select problems and activities that will be engaging and challenging for that audience.
We have run festivals for students in grades 1-3 (usually with their parents), for students in grades 4-6, for middle school students and for high school students. We have run festivals for students with almost no mathematical background outside the classroom, and for students with deep mathematical experience. The social atmosphere of festivals tends to motivate and engage students with different backgrounds to share quandaries, approaches, and discoveries with each other and the facilitators.
The local organizers decide whether to target certain grades or a wide band of grades. We’ve had elementary only, middle school only, and middle school/high school festivals. The greater the grade span, the more challenging it is to host the festival.
Training for facilitators (table leaders) often occurs right before the festival, and typically lasts about an hour. The organizer of the training session discusses the philosophy and pedagogical approach of the festival, presents an overview of logistics, and goes over the expectations of table leaders.
One effective way to accomplish training in the content matter of a festival is to provide each facilitator with a copy of his or her own activity in advance. In the training session, facilitators of different problems pair off. First one facilitator acts the role of a student, working a problem or activity which is new while the other facilitator supports him or her. Then the pair reverses roles.
Facilitators elicit logical processes for approaching, exploring, or solving problems. They strive to ask questions rather than provide suggestions or answers.
Our math activities are designed to engage and inspire. The activities are designed to reward perseverance, breadth and depth of exploration and insights, rather than speed. Students generally spend 30-60 minutes on an activity and rarely finish it completely.
Our volunteers are there to help kids find an entry point into even the most difficult activities. We will also provide guidance on good places to start.
Trust us. The problems they’ll encounter at this festival will be novel, and go to a depth that most students have never seen. There will even be some unsolved problems floating around. Challenge won’t be a problem.
This festival is designed to appeal to a broad audience, not just those who identify as math lovers already. That said, please don’t force students who are not interested in coming to join us. If students are open to the idea of seeing a different side of math, we will do our best to show them what we think is beautiful, profound, and wonderful about the subject. This festival is for any student who comes to it with an open and curious mind.
First and foremost, a Julia Robinson Mathematics Festival brings engaging and deep mathematical content to students in grades K-12 (ages 4 – 18). Teachers who have experience as a JRMF facilitator use its ‘hands off’ pedagogical style in their classrooms. Our festivals engage many types of students, including those who don’t enjoy competition or working under time pressure. A festival is also a community event, bringing together institutions and organizations as their constituents celebrate mathematics.
The JRMF organization offers:
- A registration system.
- Advice on seeking local funding and recruiting facilitators.
- Help selecting problem sets from our databank of 100+ activities.
- Text and logos for advertising, banners, and printed materials.