One of the things that I love best about working with young people is teaching them that learning and discovering about science and math can be fun as well as rewarding. Several of our NW Saturday Academy students had a chance to do that in spades this past weekend when they took a field trip to the National Math Festival at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in downtown Washington, DC.
The National Math Festival is an annual gathering where scientists, mathematicians and other technologists come together to celebrate math. There are activities, exhibits and “Ted Talk” style presentations for all ages, from preschool to adult.
Here is our pre-teen daughter’s take on the trip:
My personal favorite was Cash Prizes for Everyone game show. Despite the name, not everyone walked away with cash prizes. In Cash Prizes for Everyone, contestants were invited to the stage to compete in a math-themed game of logic and wits. I was fortunate enough to get a shot and guess what? I won the highest prize of the day to that point: $4! It was very fun and engaging, as I had to think about the best way to win a probability game against a real mathematician using a strange pair of unbalanced dice.
A few of the students participated in a wacky, science-based obstacle course. They had to figure out the best way to transfer water from one container to another, got to “walk on water” across an Oobleck pond (a mixture of water and cornstarch where the viscosity changes when you put pressure on it.) I thought the coolest part was when they got to shoot a “Vortex Cannon” filled with dry ice smoke and knock over some carnival-style pins. Check out the video of these kids in action here:
The FIRST organization was on hand to display some super-cool FIRST Tech Challenge robots. Most of our students currently participate in our LEGO robotics program, so this was fascinating for them; FTC is the program they can join when the graduate from LEGO robotics at the end of middle school.
Even our youngest, who is normally pretty shy in public, found his niche in a room where there were lots of shapes, tiles and puzzles to explore.
Overall, the trip to the National Math Festival was a very rewarding experience. The students are already looking forward to going back next year.