Math Fair to engage students with activities and games

Tuesday, October 26, 2010 | 6:06 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Math is more than multiplication worksheets, as fifth-graders and their families will find out this Saturday at the Math Fair.

The 16th annual Math Fair, put on by the University of Missouri Mathematics Teachers Organization, or UM2TO, will feature about 30 booths of games and activities run by MU students pursuing teaching degrees.

When and Where

Date: Saturday, Oct. 30

Time: 8-11 a.m.

Place: Stotler Lounge, Memorial Student Union at MU

“It provides kids with a different perspective than just classroom math,” said Amanda Thomas, co-chairwoman of this year’s fair.

Thomas and the other chairwoman, Jane Davis, said people were surprised at how much fun they had doing math at last year’s booths:

  • In Mayan Macaroni Mayhem, students used shaped macaroni noodles to construct numbers from the ancient Mayan system.
  • In the game Set, players tried to find three cards with similar characteristics. “Some of the parents got super into it,” Davis said.
  • Tetris and dominoes met in Pentominoes, an activity where participants used pieces made of five connected squares to make larger shapes.
  • Some participants took the challenge of the Towers of Hanoi, moving small round disks from one peg to peg in the fewest number of moves without placing a larger disc on top of a smaller disk.  
  • Attendees built bridges with gumdrops and toothpicks.

Students can get prizes based on the number of booths they visit. The first 120 people at the fair will receive door prizes. Attendance typically ranges from 100 to 200 people, according to Barbara Reys, distinguished professor of mathematics education at MU.

Reys co-founded the Math Fair with David Barnes, who is now at the National Council for Teachers of Math. UM2TO needed a service project that would allow the group to bond internally and reach out to the community, Reys said.

“We wanted kids to see that math can be interesting,” Reys said. “It can be about thinking and puzzling and creativity.”

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