MIND Research hosts math fair in Chicago

By Laura Devaney
September 30th, 2015

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner and Secretary of Education Beth Purvis cut ribbon on free educational event

math-mindThousands of Chicagoans experienced math through games, puzzles, theater performances, music, technology and even a bounce house on September 26 at Navy Pier.

MIND Research Institute’s 2015 Math Fair: At the Square Root of Fun, was brought to Chicago in partnership with LEAP Innovations to engage children with fun yet challenging math experiences outside of the classroom.

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner and Secretary of Education Beth Purvis welcomed guests to the Math Fair. “Math skills are really, really important and their value is only growing,” said Governor Rauner. “Every child deserves the American Dream, and that’s where education comes in, and math is the key.”

Research shows that early math skills are the number one predictor of later academic achievement. That, and the fact that 20 percent of all US jobs require skills in at least one of the science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) fields, has helped to make it a national education priority to inspire a new generation to embrace math skills and problem solving.
Joining Rauner and Purvis to cut the ribbon on the fair were Annette Gurley, Chief of Teaching and Learning at Chicago Public Schools; Phyllis Lockett, CEO of LEAP Innovations; and Matthew Peterson, Ph.D., co-founder and CEO of MIND Research Institute.

The 56,000-square-foot Math Fair included 20 exhibits for visitors of all ages. Activities included a Math Mystery Theater where kids used iPads to interact with performers and help solve math puzzles, 3D-printed mathematical curiosities for kids to touch and explore concepts like conic sections and parabolas, a laser game that let players use mirrors to discover symmetry and angles, a station for children to build their own games, the Lil’ Mathematician Zone designed to engage children 5 years old and under with stories and tactile games that parents can replicate at home, and more. Visitors also played ancient African games at South of the Sahara, an exhibit unveiled for the first time in Chicago.

“At LEAP Innovations we are creating the future of education right here, right now – and we’re thrilled to have partners like MIND Research Institute who are dedicated to the same work,” said Phyllis Lockett, CEO of LEAP Innovations. “When learning outside the classroom is fun, engaging and connects to what’s happening inside of school, it helps bring the whole learning experience to life.”

Throughout the day, family math workshops helped parents learn to conquer “Homework Without Tears,” demonstrate to their children how “Math is Everywhere” and more. At the conclusion of the fair, top-ranking teams of the 2015 national K-12 Game-a-thon were also recognized. Take-home activities booklets provided in both English and Spanish should help families continue conversations about math and problem solving with their children.

“At MIND we have a two-pronged approach. We have our ST Math program in schools and our MathMINDs programs outside of school where we engage with families and the community,” said Matthew Peterson, Ph.D., co-founder and CEO of the MIND Research Institute. “If we want to change how people feel about math, we have to change how they experience math and see its beauty in the world around them, and that’s what the Math Fairs and other MathMINDs events are all about.”

The Math Fair is the brainchild of Peterson, who also created the ST Math® game-based learning program used by more than 22,000 children in Chicago-area schools.

The national Math Fair is the cornerstone of the MathMINDs movement, which aims to shift the cultural perception of math from being scary and frustrating to exciting and essential. To do this, MathMINDs engages the community and students in hands-on mathematical experiences outside the classroom. These include math camps, family math nights, the national K-12 Game-a-thon, and other activities where students and families discover they are capable problem-solvers in a mathematical world.

The Math Fair sponsors included CME Group Foundation, IMC Financial Markets and the Chicago Sun-Times. At each exhibit space, corporate and individual volunteers brought the fair to life by facilitating learning experiences and explaining the related mathematical concepts.

Check out the Math Fair Storify for photos and visitor experiences.

Material from a press release was used in this report.

About the Author:

Laura Devaney

Laura Devaney is the Director of News for eSchool Media. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland's Philip Merrill College of Journalism. When she isn't wrangling her two children, Laura enjoys running, photography, home improvement, and rooting for the Terps. Find Laura on Twitter: @eSN_Laura