What are some great math social activities for students? I'm looking for things that bring people together with a "light" mathematical touch. The goal is to create a stronger mathematical community in a small college math department.

Examples I've heard so far:

Math Stack Exchange Party: Students get together and surf questions on this site and answer them.

Zome Tool Party: Students get together and make cool things out of Zome tools.

Integration Bee: Spelling bee....but with integrals!

I'm looking for "soft" ways to attract students to the major. Thanks, in advance!

  • $\begingroup$ I love these answers, please keep them coming! $\endgroup$ – Jon Bannon Jan 25 '11 at 15:08

When I was a first year undergrad, we organised a mathematical Call My Bluff evening. A game master prepares questions in the vein of "what is a happy number", "State one interesting theorem from Ramsey theory", and so on, questions whose answers a first year undergraduate is unlikely to know but likely to understand. Then, several teams have to invent credible answers and quietly submit them on a piece of paper. The game master reads them all out, along with the correct answer and the teams have to guess which answer is right. There are some points for identifying the right answer, but even more points for every team that fell for yours.

It's great fun, and actually quite demanding: when you invent a definition, you must take care to not define the empty set and to not define something that you already know under a different name. Accordingly, when you are evaluating the answers, you are trying to rule out those that seem to define/state something boring or something well-known under a different name. Of course, inventing answers is also very creative and makes you realise how difficult it is to ask interesting questions or introduce interesting concepts.

  • $\begingroup$ This sounds like a lot of fun! I may suggest it to our math club. $\endgroup$ – Mike Spivey Jan 25 '11 at 3:28
  • $\begingroup$ Sounds like a great variation of what I call Balderdash! $\endgroup$ – The Chaz 2.0 Apr 26 '12 at 18:59

Most of the following have been done at at least one of the institutions where I've taught.

  1. Math movie night. Host a showing of some movie with mathematical content and then a short discussion afterward about the mathematics. Possible movies: "21," "Proof," "Fermat's Last Tango," "N is a Number" (an Erdős biography), "Fermat's Room" (haven't seen it, but it looks interesting)

  2. Math pictionary. Students have a couple of minutes to draw a representation of some mathematics term while their team members try to guess what it is. No words or mathematical symbols allowed. (This can get really funny.)

  3. Math puzzles and games night. Possible games: Go, Set, Hey! That's My Fish, Hex

  4. Pi Day on March 14, complete with edible pies, a pi-digit reciting contest, and Kate Bush's song "Pi" playing in the background. If the faculty are brave enough they could volunteer to be the victims in a pie-throwing contest.

  5. Host a Sonia Kovalevsky Day for local high schools.

  6. Design a math club t-shirt. For most students, the more math puns, the better.

  7. A trip to the local science center or to a public lecture with some mathematical content.
  • $\begingroup$ The pictionary one sounds great...it would be excellent to play in algebra class... excellent! $\endgroup$ – Jon Bannon Jan 25 '11 at 17:09

Though not an actual activity, most of the videos by Vihart are entertaining enough to watch and get even more interesting once you know the mathematics behind it.

  • $\begingroup$ Apologies for comment in wrong place, but I don't know how else to reply to you. Thank you for the edit, cases improves appearance. I unfortunately want to make some editing. That will remove your appearance from the post. I want your name to be there as editor, so can you make a very minor edit so that your name again appears? $\endgroup$ – André Nicolas Aug 11 '12 at 14:10
  • $\begingroup$ @AndréNicolas That's alright, I don't do it for getting my name out :p $\endgroup$ – Ward Muylaert Aug 11 '12 at 15:47

Mathematics and juggling (figuring out how siteswap notation works, for example).

  • $\begingroup$ This is a great one. I had completely forgotten about it! Thanks Hans! $\endgroup$ – Jon Bannon Jan 23 '11 at 18:16

To add to Mike's Math movies/documentaries list: (unable to post links in comments)

  1. Story of Maths
  2. Dangerous Knowledge
  3. Fermat's Last Theorem
  4. The Importance of Mathematics

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