How to Set up Your Math Celebration
1. Choose a date for your Fair. (Students should have at least two months for preparation.) Last year, my Fair was assigned March 18th, and the Fair date was May 19th.
A. Reminder: Check the school and district calendars for conflicting dates.
B. Sign up for the largest room your school has to offer.
2. Choose four judges. Outside judges help in several ways. They are impartial, they are immune to parental pressure, and they provide students with a chance to experience interview situations. The judges' scores will help form each student's grade at the end of the marking period.
A. Each judge receives a sheet outlining judging criteria.
B. Our judges are typically district personnel who are not directly involved with the class. The most recent crop included a math specialist, a math supervisor, a computer teacher, and a former principal.
3. Inform the parents. I send parents a letter at the outset, informing them of the project's magnitude. Parents sign the bottom half of the letter and return it, keeping the top half as a guide for the project.
4. Contact sister schools in your district (or nearby). This is where the fun begins. I invited three other top 5th grade classes to come to our fair and try our games. This meant that 60 to 90 other students were trying out games and making their own evaluations. Although their votes didn't count for the trophies, it was interesting to see how their reactions matched those of the judges. (There's a survey and graphing lesson in there!)
5. Contact the media. Once the dates were lined up, I called local TV and newspapers and invited them to come to the fair. This might seem a bit much, but the kids love the attention, and several of our local reporters really like to do this if they have the time. I also sent them copies of the background information on the fair. I also made a round of reminder calls closer to the date of the fair.
6. Continue with Fun Fridays. As the day of the fair approaches, one day a week may not be enough time. Be flexible and realistic. You may have to give up two days a week as the fair draws closer. Make sure your class is using time efficiently. Regular classroom updates should be required. Conferencing will help everyone; students will see if their directions are clear and if their ideas are "do-able" by explaining them to the teacher.
7. Order trophies or plaques. My students are allowed to work with a partner, so I ordered two trophies for Grand Prize and Runner-Up. Prizes are a great incentive; my only regret was not having something for everyone. A suggestion: have a Certificate of Participation or a ribbon for each participant. If cost is an issue, see if the school PTO might help out.