A math fair can be created in various different ways - it can be very similar to a science fair or different depending on your style. The following will explain how I (in collaboration with many others) decided to organize the math fair at Wolfville Junior High School.
1. If you do not have a classroom of your own and you would like to organize a math fair, talk to various teachers in a school and see if one would be willing to work with you to create a math fair (as I did). If you are a teacher then of course your classroom would be the perfect opportunity to start.
2. Talk to the students to see what they think about a math fair. If they really don't seem into then it may be a struggle. There are various ways to go about finding projects for the fair. You could assign everyone to do a project and allow those who would like to go in the math fair put their project in it (as was the way we designed the math fair). Or it could be more similar to a science fair where it is an independent project (which they could get extra credit for if you so choose). We found that by giving everyone a project it allowed the teacher to assign class time for the students to work on their projects and students seemed really interested in putting their projects in the fair (about 1/3 - 1/2 of the project were in the fair). If you would like other classes involved in the fair I would suggest talking to other teachers and seeing if they would be willing to talk to their students about projects. I wouldn't suggest trying to organize too many projects on your own without the math teachers of the students being involved.
3. If you are a teacher and taking this on for your school make sure that you have other teachers who are willing to help organize with you, as it is a big job. Also try to see if you can find some volunteers (parents, other teachers, support staff) who can help the day of the fair (and the day before for set-up) as these will be the most hectic days.
5. Allow your students plenty of time to work on their projects (this doesn't necessarily have to be in the classroom - though giving them a little time in the classroom does help as they can have some guidance from a teacher).
6. Set a date for the math fair as soon as you can so that students can create a timeline for their project. As well, not only will you want to set a date but also a location. A gymnasium or library (depending on space and number of projects) usually will work out well. Book it for the day and also remember that you need your students to set up - so this can either be the afternoon before or the morning of. Make sure you have tables or desks for students to place their projects on (and wall-space if this is needed).
7. If this is something you would like judged try to set up the judging early to ensure that people will be available (maybe talk to former math teachers or administration throughout the school). For our math fair we asked the judges to find their top 10 projects by using the judging sheet. Then we discussed with them their choices to narrow it down to a top three.
8. Apply for any funding if available. The teacher who I was organizing the math fair will found out about an enrichment grant and applied for some funding for the math fair for resources (books, kits, etc.) and funding to help pay for honorariums and prizes. This funding not only helped out with the organizing of the fair (by giving us a lot more resources) but a lot of the resources could be used in the classroom after the math fair which would continue to help out the students in their learning.
9. Make sure you create posters for the math fair so that students and teachers throughout the school know about the fair. Invite other math teachers to bring their students to the fair. For our math fair since all math teachers were in agreeance to allow their students to attend we created a schedule of what classes were coming when and gave the schedule to all math teachers. This schedule was created especially so that we only had at most two classes at a time - allowing students the room to wander and interact with the projects (since some classes had doubles of math that day and didn't need to be there for both). As for our math fair you can have a student create posters for the math fair - which gives them the opportunity to be creative. Also make sure to write-up a brief note about the fair in a newsletter for your school so that other teachers and parents know about this project that you are working on with your students.
10. Have lots of resources for your students to come up with ideas for their project. A lot of students may have trouble coming up with an idea for a math fair project (especially more so than a science fair project) as most of them will not have heard of a math fair or know what types of projects they can do. For our math fair we made sure that students realized that they didn't have to be as in depth as a science fair project would normally be (with materials, procedures, etc. making it an experiment). We made sure students realized that the projects could be interactive so that when onlookers came by they could actually participate if they so chose. See the Resources, Project Ideas, and Photo Gallery sections for ideas of projects that students worked on for this math fair.
11. Find out the schedule of math classes in your school and invite them to attend the fair. We made sure we set up the timetable before hand so that no more than 2-3 classes were at the fair at a time, due to space. This of course would depend on your space and the number of projects as to how many classes you would want in there at a time. Since a lot of our projects were interactive the students had lots to see for an entire class period (of 40-45 minutes).
12. Set a deadline for the projects before the fair (I suggest a couple days) to ensure that you know of the number of projects that are definitely finished and ready to go in the fair.
13. Have students bring in their projects for the fair and set-up (I suggest the afternoon before the fair). Have the tables set-up exactly the way you want before students start setting up their projects, so that it will be a much smoother process.
14. We labeled each project with a number and then wrote down the project title and names to go with the number. Then we created comment forms (with a place for project number and comment) for students the day of the fair to fill out with viewing the projects. Each student entering the fair was asked to give positive comments on 5 of the projects that they saw and then these comments would be passed onto the presenters. I suggest having someone there all day sorting through the comments to ensure that they are ok and that they are grouped according to project number. Do not do this step if you do not have a lot of help as this can take up a lot of time
15. Throughout the fair take pictures of projects and the fair itself to post after the fair is over.
16. Leave time at the end of the day to take down the projects. Have students help to take down tables and put them back where they belong.
17. Give yourself a pat on the back on a job well done. It's a lot of work but worth every effort when you see the result.