The 2019 Math en Jean conference is coming to San Francisco and is hosted by LFSF. We met with Matthieu Schavsinski, one of the Math teachers leading the organization of this major event, and we asked him a few questions.
LFSF : You are heavily involved in organizing the 2019 Math en Jeans conference at LFSF. What does it take to organize such an event ?
MS : We had a big increase of the students attending to the conference this year! We are expecting 270 students from 11 different High Schools in North America and Singapour.
We've worked very hard and for a long time, since last summer, on the preparation on this event: from the logistics (flights, housing, food,...) for the students and the researcher to every details of these 3 days. We had to figure out the work groups, identify the subjects submitted to the students, organize a mathematical treasure hunt, prepare evening events, design and order Tshirts and goodies for students and so much more...
Personally, I've been working on this event for 2 full days a week for the last 5 months. The math department is fully engaged on it and is helping me.
In addition to the event itself, we are hosting 2 workshops per week (on Tuesdays 11am-1pm and Thursdays 12-1pm) to allow our students to work on their problems.
LFSF : What do you hope the event will bring to LFSF students, to the school, and to you as a teacher?
MS : For our students, it's of course a unique learning experience. This project is a way to learn about the research process, to experience collaboration with peers, overcome difficulties and find solutions when we're faced by very large problem you've got to solve.
It's also the opportunity to show them how math relates to real life. For example, they work on modelizing traffic jams? Or how to organize flights in an airport? Or also how identifying the shortest road to link 4 cities anywhere on a map.
It teaches them about scientific communication. Orally during the conference of course, and also afterwards, as students will have to write an article that will be published in the MEJ mathematical revue.
For LFSF, it is a way to develop connections with other schools in North-America and worldwide but also next year, I hope, local schools. We want to develop a large network of schools around mathematics to allow our students to be open-minded and to develop and challenge their skills. For us, as teachers, it's the opportunity to measure how good of a job we are doing with our students in math. We are impressed by their level of dedication. As a department, we are very happy of their engagement and their will to learn new concepts and find solutions to a difficult problem even during their lunchtime!
Personally, I can't forget how proud I was of my students during previous conferences, in Montreal'17 and Chicago'18. They were really clear and brilliant during their presentations! That's why I teach: to share the beauty of mathematics with my students, and the full process of Math en Jeans is very rewarding for this.
LFSF : How long has LFSF participated in MEJ?
MS: It's our third year for LFSF. On the 1st year, we had 15 students going to Montreal. On the 2nd year, 25 LFSF students participated in Chicago. And this year, 53 students are involved in the conference! It's exponential !
I arrived to LFSF in 2015 and we missed the first North American conference in in in Ottawa because we needed time to build our project. But we are now one of the linchpins of MEJ in North America and we are very proud to contribute to this impressive increase in terms of participating number of students and high schools. In 2015, only 5 were involved when today students from 11 school will meet to share this experience. Building this wonderful network is a good way to make our students and our schools stronger.
LFSF: Some other thoughts you like to be shared :-)
MS : The first researchers arrived this week-end and all of them will be here tonight. CIMF in Montreal and Singapour is arriving tonight, most of the schools tomorrow and the last ones on Friday (Los Angeles, by road!).
It's touching to imagine all these students, teachers and researchers converging to LFSF from 4 countries to do math. We can be proud !