Math Festival Promotes No-Pressure Problem-Solving

Janet’s Gym will be abuzz with creative problem solving on Sunday, April 26 from 1:004:00 p.m. when Ellis hosts our second Julia Robinson Mathematics Festival (JRMF). Students in kindergarten through grade 8 will collaborate, share ideas, and investigate multiple solution paths as they play games and solve a variety of puzzles under the guidance of Ellis’ wonderful faculty, staff, and Upper School students. 
When the Mathematics Department faculty first learned about JRMF a few years ago, we knew Ellis would be the perfect location to bring this festival to the Western Pennsylvania region. First off, we loved the idea of hosting a festival named after the late Julia Robinson. She was the first female mathematician to be elected to the National Academy of Sciences, the first woman elected as President of the American Mathematical Society, and she was named a MacArthur Fellow for her work in the field of mathematics. She was a changemaker beyond her time—and an inspiring role model for Ellis girls. 

We also appreciated the format of JRMF. So many formal math events are timed competitions, and this is the exact opposite by intent. All the activities are self-paced without any time constraints. Students can try a variety of games and puzzles, and there is no time limit attached to any of them. We know our students love learning math in collaboration, and we embrace this opportunity for them to have fun while talking about their ideas, sharing their thought processes and reasoning, giving each other feedback, trying a solution path, and if it doesn’t work initially, trying again. All of these are key components to creative problem-solving and ones that our students experience in their math classes every day. JRMF gives students a different platform to put these skills into practice. We will even have some activities for parents to try!

We intend to host a biennial JRMF at Ellis, alternating years with our fantastic Fine Arts Festival. Our first JRMF two years ago was so well received that we had a waitlist for it. So, please register your daughters soon! Registration is opening to Ellis families first, and then the festival will be advertised to the broader public. Space is limited to 250 student attendees, and pre-registration is required to ensure we have enough activities and supplies available. 

We look forward to seeing you on April 26!