Math On-A-Stick

Math On-A-Stick takes place each year at the Minnesota State Fair, which is 12 days of fun, ending Labor Day. In 2024, that means the Fair will run from Thursday, August 22 through Monday, September 2.

Volunteer at Math On-A-Stick

We need volunteers all 12 days of the Fair, plus for set-up and clean-up before and after the Fair. Information and volunteer signups are live at this link.

Math on a Stick

What is Math On-A-Stick?

The Minnesota State Fair has everything on a stick… even math! In this exhibit math comes to life in a photo scavenger hunt called The Number Game. Children and caregivers count their way through the fair. You’ll make shapes and patterns, look for similarities and differences, and meet visiting math artists sharing their beautiful, mathematical creations and helping you to make your own. Activities are brought to you by the Minnesota State Fair Foundation.

The Number Game

Pick up a Number Game card from any State Fair Information Booth or download one here. As you explore the fairgrounds, notice sets of things: A corn dog has 1 stick, a cow has 4 legs, the Ferris Wheel has 20 carts. Keep track of the sets you find on your game card. You can also take pictures and share these with the appropriate #numbersatthefair hashtag on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. Bring your completed card to Math On-A-Stick in Baldwin Park to claim your prize!

Activity Tables

Visitors have hands-on shape, number and patterning fun by playing together at activity tables that include colorful rectangular tiles, tiles shaped like turtles and lizards, and colorful eggs by the 2\frac{1}{2} dozen. Play Pattern Machines, get your hands on the Spiral Machine, or hop on the Stepping Stones. Take a break from the hustle and bustle of the Fair to enjoy a shapes book or a counting book together.

Visiting Mathematicians and Mathematical Artists

Each day features a different activity led by a mathematician or artist who uses math in their work. Join us on multiple days to see what’s new.


Do you want suggestions for additional ways to play with math beyond the Fair? Do you have a question you’ve always wanted to ask a math teacher or mathematician, but you’ve been afraid to ask? Do you have a math accomplishment to share and need an enthusiastic audience? Stop by and chat. We’re here all 12 days of fun, ending Labor Day!

How can I help?

By volunteering. Sign up on our volunteer website, which goes live in early April. Then we’ll be in touch in early August with the information you’ll need for your shift(s) and with your tickets to the Fair. Most shifts are about 3 hours. The earliest is at 8:30 a.m.; the latest finishes at 8:15 p.m.

By spreading the word. Share the link to this page with the people in your life.

By contributing. We are funded by the Minnesota State Fair Foundation, a registered 501(c)(3) organization with education as an important part of its mission. Financial contributions to the Foundation support our work. Contacting them with gratitude for funding the work goes a long way as well.

Who operates Math On-A-Stick?

Math On-A-Stick is an official event of the Minnesota State Fair, and operates with funds provided by the Minnesota State Fair Foundation.

The Minnesota Council of Teachers of Mathematics provides many volunteer hours, and general volunteer coordination, and organizational support.

Talking Math with Your Kids and Public Math provide creative services.

We would love to recognize your organization for providing volunteer hours! Get in touch for details if you’d like to join the likes of Desmos, CPM, Public Math, and the Adult Numeracy Network, who have each sponsored a day of volunteers at Math On-A-Stick.

Got questions?

Ask them here. We’ll be in touch as soon as we can.

See you at the Fair!

More information

Here are a few pieces of writing about specific activities at Math On-A-Stick, with more coming soon.

The Circle Game

Here is some writing about the event itself, from a variety of places.

From Christopher Danielson of Talking Math with Your Kids: Let the Children Play. The founder of Math On-A-Stick takes a deep breath and looks back on the first four days of Math On-A-Stick, and looks ahead to the future.

From Lani Horn: Math On-A-Stick Lani—a researcher and educator at Vanderbilt—describes the data collection that took place for her team’s research on children’s playful mathematical learning.

From Annie Perkins: Math On-A-Stick! and Math On-A-Stick, Part II In the first post, this mathematician, teacher, and artist lists out three reasons she described Math On-A-Stick this way: “It. Is. The. Best.” In the second post she reflects on what teachers, parents, and children can learn from each other in this space about math, teaching, learning, and being human.

From Megan Schmidt: Embracing Her Rules and Math On-A-Stick, Encore Edition In the first post, this mother and educator reflects on her daughter’s rule-breaking in a space designed for rule-breaking young mathematicians, and in the second she expresses gratitude for us presenting this view of math that schools often cannot.

From Greta Bergman: Math On-A-Stick great photo documentation of the wide range of activities that take place in the space.

From Laura Wagenman: Math-On-A-Stick As Told By My 8-Year-Old A delightful 8 year-old reflects on several volunteer shifts over the 12-day run of the 2018 Fair. “If I had describe Math-On-A-Stick to someone, I would tell them it’s a spot where instead of doing worksheets, you play and do math

From Cassandra Turner: Math On-A-Stick: New Favorite at the Minnesota State Fair An educator stumbles on Math On-A-Stick for the first time.

From Peter Hoh: A beautiful photo album on flickr.

Finally, Sara VanDerWerf takes us on a 1-minute video tour of the space.