On Saturday, May 9, 2020, over 70 fifth through eighth grade students from Santa Cruz County participated in AIM’s first ever “Virtual Math Festival.”
As a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival was hosted entirely online, taking place in a virtual event hall where students could freely come and go between tables, choosing the activities that feel most engaging to them. Activities were adapted from Math Circles and the Julia Robinson Mathematics Festival, with an eye toward recreating key aspects of the in-person festival experience while also taking advantage of the online format. In particular, virtual manipulatives created by AIM allowed students to explore and collaborate on activities using files that are easily shareable with teachers through their Google Classrooms and available to anyone online through www.mathcircles.org.
Similarly to an in-person festival, the Virtual Math Festival featured a half a dozen different games and activities that let students play and experience the fun side of mathematics. Problems were highly accessible, so any student could work on any activity, but as they explored deeper into a problem, they would discover more interesting mathematical concepts. Each activity was led by an adult volunteer who guided students through the problems by asking insightful questions or offering helpful avenues of exploration. The more than 20 volunteers consisted of K-12 teachers from Santa Cruz schools as well as members of the UC Santa Cruz’s Monterey Bay Area Math Project and Cal Teach program.
This festival was a collaboration with the Santa Cruz County Office of Education. Superintendent Dr. Faris Sabbah was in attendance and kicked off the festival with a welcome message to the students, who represented over a dozen of the county’s schools. Santa Cruz County Office of Education Math Coordinator Kevin Drinkard was one of the primary organizers of the event, recruiting students and teachers. After receiving positive feedback from the festival and requests for more online events, he hosted a week-long virtual summer camp for 26 middle school students as well as 4 college student counselors. This camp was also made possible by AIM’s online events hall and math activities.
Additionally, as part of its partnership with the Santa Clara County Office of Education to bring math outreach events to Title 1 schools, AIM hosted a second Virtual Math Festival for schools in the Berryessa Union School District on Wednesday, May 27th. This festival, which served another 70 middle school students with help from a dozen Santa Clara County public school teachers, was a successful pilot test for the County’s efforts to bring online events to schools in the fall as they begin the school year remotely.
AIM looks forward to supporting schools with Virtual Math Festivals and other online interactive math activities this fall and beyond. More information is available at our K-12 programs website, www.mathcommunities.org.