Title of Project: Mathematics in Science Fairs

Year of Competition: 2003

Grant amount: $3000

Project Duration: Single Year

Type of Report: Final

Period Covered: Oct 2, 2003 -- April 2, 2004

Description of Activity:
Work with students and teachers (mostly at secondary schools) to invent and develop mathematical projects suitable for exhibition at science fairs, a daunting task in this "egg-head" subject. As in previous years, the programme had PIMS (the Pacific Institute for the Mathematical Sciences) as its main sponsor and took place within the frame-work of the Science Fair Foundation (BC). The detailed interaction with students and teachers was carried out by Iliya Katich, formerly the IMO coach from Sarajevo for Team Yugoslavia. He was hired to work about 8 hours a week (he did much more) between October and April, advised by the "contact" and other mathematicians from PIMS, at UBC and SFU. For practical reasons, the programme was restricted to the Greater Vancouver Area (over 100 schools). The fair was held from April 1 to 3, 2004, at UBC. The exhibits were judged independently by a group appointed by the Science Fair Foundation and (for the mathematical part only) by 3 judges from PIMS: Iliya Katich, Malek Abdessalam (a visitor to the UBC mathematic department), and the "contact".

Assessment of Effectiveness:
This year, the number of mathematical entries was down to nine, and this includes a few which had been classed as "physics" although they were purely mathematical (e.g. about 4-dimensional geometry). These nine were, however, of fairly high qualtiy. The number had decreased steadily from year to year, as a few older teachers, who had sent the bulk of the entries, went into retirement. In BC, the traditional mathematical (and physical) culture - with individuals at the centre - seems to be on the wane.

Nevertheless, to call the programme "ineffective" would be an insult to the young "geeks" who braved peer pressure and showed up. There are few better means of attracting students who (like most mathematicians) happen to be marathoners rather than sprinters. If they are fewer and fewer each year, they need the encouragement all the more. And, as these exhibits are viewed by the public, they also help to overcome some popular misconceptions about mathematics.

Here are details of the PIMS prize winners. There were three pairs of equally deserving projects, but Shaun Evans was also found to be the most original by the Science Fair Foundation judges (not from PIMS) and sent on to the national competition.

The Fourth Dimension (Shaun Evans)$200
David's Pyramid (David Aasen)$200
The Gold in the Golden Ratio (Grace O~RDonovan)$100
Minigolf for Dummies (Cory Murnane and Justin Bill)$100
Sky Catcher (Nelson and Jack)$50
The Power of Electrolysis (Andrew Francesca)$50

Future Plans (if any):
We shall lumber along on a reduced budget (PIMS will cut most of its contribution) and try to keep the idea alive by working directly with principals, teachers, parents, and students.


PIMS budget amount$4,500
Contribution from CMS$3,000
Total Income$7,500

Honorarium to BC Math Fair Coordinator (Iliya Katich)$5,000
Payment to Science World ($700 prizes, $300 overhead)$1,000
Top student's travel to national science fair$1,500
Total Expenses$7,500

Contact Name: Klaus Hoechsmann

[October 3, 2004]