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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Math fair creates excitement for young students

The A&M math department saw a record crowd in Blocker on Saturday for the annual Math Mini Fair – 95 students in grades ranging from kindergarten to high school.
Jean Marie Linhart, event organizer and University lecturer, said the mini fair is an outreach event for students in the Bryan-College Station area held by the math department every April, which is designated as Mathematics Awareness Month. She said the event offers a chance to reach out to students at a young age, before they give up on math.
“In school sometimes we end up making it boring,” Linhart said. “We want to have a better math experience for both kids and parents out there so that they know some of the cool things about math.”
The Mini Math Fair included a written problem-solving contest as well as two rooms full of math activities and colorful math-related art.
Event staffers said the goal was to make sure the math fun did not stop. During the pizza lunch provided, attendees and volunteers alike munched away on triangular slices of pizza while watching a playful video story of two-dimensional shapes struggling to reach the third dimension.
Linhart said as a result of a few faculty members taking initiative and finding creative ways of teaching math, organizers were able to extend the mini fair to include a mathematical art room this year and last year.
“With the problem solving contest, you’re kind of preaching to your choir,” Linhart said. “With the art room, you’ve got some kids who might not otherwise like math so much, but might think the math in the art room is kind of cool.”
Tracy Weyand, mathematics graduate student and event volunteer, said she offered to guide attendees through their endeavors at a station within the art room in hopes of sharing her love of math with the next generation.
Weyand said her station had an activity that allowed attendees to build two- and three- dimensional structures with toothpicks as well as an activity in which students could make flutes out of different sized straws to learn how the different lengths of pipes make different sounds.
“It’s simple and easy, but anytime a kid can make noise they get excited,” Weyand said.
In the activities room, Associate Professor Phillip Yasskin, who can be found on week days teaching upper level University math classes, pulled a small crowd of six-year-olds and adults alike with a card trick that applied the properties of a mathematical sequence.
Yasskin said, in his involvement with outreach programs throughout the years, he has found it is important to work with younger students to help them distinguish between basic concepts.
“They come up with all kinds of weird conjectures,” Yasskin said. “You have four things and six things, but the six things are close together and the four are spread apart. Which is bigger? Little kids have a problem trouble distinguishing between larger numbers and bigger lengths, so you have to work with them.”
The mini fair concluded with an award ceremony. Winners in each age division of the problem solving contest and winners of art competitions were given a certificate and a gift bag containing math books.
Nico Bulhof, student at Allen Academy and winner of the origami contest at this year’s mini fest, described the mini fair as fun, as he skipped away from Blocker with the spoils of his victory in hand.
His mother, Jennifer Bulhof, said she wished they did not have to miss part of the mini fair this year for other circumstances.
“I think he had fun with the art, but I know he would have had fun with the other stuff too,” she said. “We look forward to coming back next year and doing more problem solving.”

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