What's the Big Idea: A Game Show Featuring Students and Mathematicians | National Math Festival
What's the Big Idea Game Show

What's the Big Idea: A Game Show Featuring Students and Mathematicians

Wednesday February 17, 2021 from 1:00pm - 2:30pm ET

Join elementary, middle, and high school students for a whirlwind presentation of big ideas in math — presented by mathematicians — and judged by students! Students will assess the mathematicians' explanations based on fun and clarity. Audience members participate in voting too, so come ready to listen and vote on your favorite big math ideas. This show is presented by the Young People's Project, which uses a near-peer mentoring model to support student achievement in math.

Event Video

Six mathematicians take center stage with the single objective of presenting a very big or deep idea in math to a panel of six youth judges.

The contest organizers hope this competition calls attention to culturally responsive, grounding, and sustaining approaches to engage young people with mathematics.

Each presentation is followed by reactions from the student judges, with scores from audience feedback shared after the last presentation.

  • Introduction of event and student judges from The Young People's Project by Shawn Bernier (Starting at 1:44)
  • Jessica Andrews-Todd: Is a Square a Rectangle? (10:20)
  • Fega Okwa: Is 0 an Even Number? (19:52)
  • Dr. Pamela E. Harris: Why is 0.99999... = 1? (31:41)
  • Andrés R. Vindas Meléndez: Arithmetic & Geometric Sequences (46:07)
  • Michael Dairyko: Can We Divide By Zero? (1:01:54)
  • John Urschel: Are Some Infinities "Bigger" Than Others? (1:14:32)
  • Conclusion and Feedback Scoring (1:28:43)

This event was hosted by Shawn Bernier of the Young People's Project and Albert Sykes, Executive Director of IDEA: The Institute for Democratic Education in America, a supporter of public education for children in the U.S.

We extend a heartfelt thank you to the staff and volunteers of the Young People's Project and our middle school, high school, and university student judges!

Event Resources

The Young People’s Project (YPP) uses Math Literacy Work to develop the abilities of elementary through high school students to succeed in school and in life, and in doing so involves them in efforts to eliminate institutional obstacles to their success.


Age Level



Cliff Freeman

Cliff Freeman is the Director of STEM Programs at The Young People’s Project and a first year PhD student at Boston University, studying mathematics and science education. He is particularly interested in innovative and equitable approaches that broaden participation in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education and... Learn more

Scarlitte Alameda

Scarlitte Ponce Alameda is a native of Salinas, California. She attended California State, Monterey Bay for her undergraduate degree and Iowa State University for her masters in mathematics. She interned at The Young People’s Project for Spring 2020, and she loved it so much that she decided to stay. 2021 Festival What’s the... Learn more

Shawn Bernier

Shawn Bernier is a College STEM Literacy Worker (CMLW) at the Young People’s Project and a student at Wheaton College in Norton, MA. He is studying business and economics and minoring in computer science. His claim to fame is helping his community discover themselves socially and helping them value leadership. He began working with the Young People’s Project at the beginning... Learn more

The Young People’s Project (YPP)

The Young People’s Project (YPP) brings together middle school students and high school mentors to celebrate, encourage, and motivate mathematical learning. Our focus is around Math Literacy, Near-Peer Mentorship, and Social Justice. YPP trains high school students, and then employs them as Math Literacy Workers, to develop interactive games to improve their own math literacy... Learn more