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Julia Robinson Mathematics Festival

The Julia Robinson Mathematics Festival (JRMF) is an educational organization that sponsors locally organized mathematics festivals targeting K–12 students. The events are designed to introduce students to the richness and beauty of mathematics in a collaborative and non-competitive forum.[1][2][3]

Logo for the Julia Robinson Mathematics Festival.png
FounderNancy Blachman
Focusinspire K–12 students to explore the richness and beauty of mathematics
  • 600 E. Brokaw Rd
    San Jose, CA
Coordinates37°22′48.57″N 121°54′25.98″W / 37.3801583°N 121.9072167°W / 37.3801583; -121.9072167Coordinates: 37°22′48.57″N 121°54′25.98″W / 37.3801583°N 121.9072167°W / 37.3801583; -121.9072167
Key people
Nancy Blachman, Founder
Mark Saul, Executive Director
Lora Saarnio, Director
Sam Woodard, Interactive Learning Engineer
Katie LaSeur, Executive Assistant
Joshua Zucker, Mathematics Advisor
Jennifer Kane, Outreach


In the 1970s, Saint Mary's College of California produced a mathematics contest that was popular with secondary schools throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.[4] In 2005, Nancy Blachman attended an education forum sponsored by the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute (MSRI) and remembered how the Saint Mary's contest had inspired her as a student.[5] Unfortunately, the contest no longer existed. Seeking to possibly resurrect the contest, Blachman and MSRI development director Jim Sotiros reached out to colleagues in the educational community. One response was from local high school math teacher Joshua Zucker, who also remembered the contest and even had saved a book of problems from it.[2] Sotiros suggested that Blachman and her husband David desJardins fund MSRI in order to hire Zucker to recreate a program in the style of the Saint Mary’s Math Contest. Blachman and Zucker became co-founders and organized their first event in 2007.[6][7] They called it a festival rather than a contest because they wanted to emphasize collaboration, creativity and fun rather than competition.[2] They named the festival after Julia Robinson, a mathematician renowned for her contributions to decision problems. In fact, her work on Hilbert's 10th problem played a crucial role in its ultimate resolution.[8] Blachman felt that such a woman would provide a role model for young girls and would show that one need not be male to be a great mathematician.[1]

When they sent out invitations to local schools, the response was so overwhelming that, in order to have enough space, they prevailed upon Google in nearby Mountain View to host the first festival.[7] A second festival was hosted in 2008 by Pixar Animation Studios in Emeryville.[9] Enthusiasm and interest have spurred strong growth, and since then, there have been festivals at Princeton University (and its greater community); Stanford University; and University of California, Berkeley,[10] and throughout the United States,[11] as well as in Europe and Asia.[12]


Since its founding, JRMF has had the support of many people and organizations, including dedicated mentors and volunteers, the founding host MSRI, and the American Institute of Mathematics (AIM), which has been a fiscal sponsor since 2013. JRMF has also frequently partnered with various educational, corporate, and mathematical organizations including The National Association of Math Circles, The National Museum of Mathematics, ThinkFun, and Gathering 4 Gardner (G4G). Among The "Friends of JRMF" are David Eisenbud, Gary Antonick, Peter Norvig, Vi Hart, and Megan Smith.[13]


  1. ^ a b "Getting Kids Excited About Mathematics, One Festival at a Time" By Colm Mulcahy, Huffington Post Blog, December 6, 2017
  2. ^ a b c Julia Robinson Mathematics Festival Mathematical Sciences Research Institute
  3. ^ About Us
  4. ^ Saint Mary's College Mathematics Contest Problems For Junior and Senior High School
  5. ^ Saint Mary’s Math Contest: High School Division : by Nancy Blachman & Nick Baxter
  6. ^ Joshua Zucker Math Forum
  7. ^ a b The 2007 Julia Robinson Mathematics Festival at Google was the founding of this event for middle school and high school students. video
  8. ^ Reid, Constance (1996). Julia: A life in mathematics. Washington, DC: Mathematical Association of America. ISBN 0-88385-520-8.
  9. ^ History of JRMF By Nancy Blachman, JRMF Founder
  10. ^ julia robinson mathematics festival at past
  11. ^ UK Mathematics Hosts Julia Robinson Math Festival By Jenny Wells, University of Kentucky, October 30, 2017
  12. ^ The Julia Robinson Mathematics Festival in Hong Kong, March 24, 2018
  13. ^ Sponsers and Partners

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