2015 Festival

On Saturday, April 18, 2015, more than 20,000 people in Washington, D.C. experienced math as never before at the first-of-its-kind National Math Festival. This public celebration featured more than 70 activities for every age—from hands-on magic and Houdini-like getaways to lectures with some of the most influential mathematicians of our time.

2015 Festival Highlights

The Mathematical Sciences Research Institute and the Institute for Advanced Study presented this free, all-day event in cooperation with the Smithsonian Institution. We outgrew our venue very quickly that day!


2015 Festival Featured Events

Cash Prizes for Everyone!

Guerilla Science

"Cash prizes for Everyone!" is an interactive game-show that offers the audience a chance to win big! In front of a large crowd, competitors (drawn randomly from the audience) will be invited to compete against a performing mathematician in one of a number of solved games. Huge prizes offered to anyone who can beat the house!

Geometric Origami

Bridges Organization

In this building workshop, we are making Platonic solids: a dodecahedron and an icosahedron, decorated with geometric patterns. The dodecahedron has 12 faces and 20 vertices, while the icosahedron has 20 faces and 12 vertices! You will also assemble a colorful, mathematical origami octahedron. These beautiful objects can become necklaces to be worn and taken home.

Who Wants to Be a Mathematician?

American Mathematical Society (AMS)

In the American Mathematical Society contest "Who Wants to Be a Mathematician", area high school students will compete by answering multiple choice mathematics questions in a competitive and entertaining quiz show format. The top prize is $3,000!

The Math Behind Minecraft

Joel Levin , TeacherGaming

Video games in the classroom? Certainly! Math and science teachers are using Minecraft to build worlds, solve problems, and have fun with their students. Join “The Minecraft Teacher” as he takes kids and adults on a guided tour of the Edu version of the game, showing off past problems and solving a few together on the spot.

Knots and DNA

Dr. Mariel Vazquez , University of California, Davis

“The best thing about being a scientist is the fun you have. Math is fun. I use math and computers to tackle scientific problems dealing with DNA. In my work I get to draw a lot of pictures. I play with rope and with ribbons,” says Dr. Mariel Vazquez. Most cells in your body have two meters of DNA in them. DNA molecules inside a confined environment such as the cell nucleus, just like your headphones in your backpack, tend to intertwine and tie knots. Hear about how these knots present a “packing problem,” and the mathematical and computational tools used to tackle it.

Rubik’s Cube and Other Permutation Puzzles

Dr. Matthew Kahle , The Ohio State University

Permutation puzzles in one form or another have been around for at least 140 years. The Rubik’s cube is perhaps the most popular permutation puzzle of all time. These puzzles have a visceral appeal, and they have provoked many fascinating new mathematical questions. Over 30 years after the initial Rubik’s cube craze, people are still discovering new things—last year for example, Tomas Rokicki and Morley Davidson spectacularly proved that “God’s number” for the Rubik’s cube is 26, meaning that every cube, no matter how scrambled, can be solved in at most 26 moves.