Mathematical Sciences Research Institute

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Public Understanding of Mathematics

MSRI's public programs aim to make mathematics accessible and exciting to those outside the field, showcasing the beauty and importance of math to people of all ages and backgrounds. We do this through initiatives ranging from production of films for public television and internet viewers to nationwide festivals, annual awards, and Bay Area community programming.

Film & Video - National Events & Initiatives - Bay Area Programs - Calendar of Public Events


Numberphile: MSRI sponsors YouTube's most popular informal math channel, with over 2.3 million subscribers and 325 million views.

Tadashi's Toys: Tadashi Tokieda loves to share his toys: in this case, objects you can make in a matter of minutes at home, which illustrate principles of mathematics. Dr. Tokieda has partnered with journalist and filmmaker Brady Haran of Numberphile to demonstrate these tricky objects.

Navajo Math Circles (2016): Navajo students enter into a lively collaboration with mathematicians in after-school programs and a summer camp at Diné College in Arizona. Against the challenges of education on the Navajo Nation, the film highlights the connections between Navajo culture, natural beauty, and mathematics, and as well as the hopes of parents, students, and teachers for a brighter future. This film has been nationally broadcast on public television beginning in fall of 2016.

Counting from Infinity: Yitang Zhang and the Twin Prime Conjecture (2015): In April 2013, Yitang Zhang, a lecturer at the University of New Hampshire, submitted a paper to the Annals of Mathematics. Within weeks word spread-- a little-known mathematician had made an important breakthrough towards solving the Twin Prime Conjecture, an enormously challenging problem in Number Theory. This film has been nationally broadcast on public television beginning in spring of 2017.

Taking the Long View: The Life of Shiing-Shen Chern (2011): The biographical documentary follows the life of Shiing-shen Chern, a remarkable mathematician whose formidable mathematical contributions were matched by an approach and vision that helped build bridges between China and the West.

For additional video productions, visit the Film & Video page.


National Math Festival: The National Math Festival brings together some of the most fascinating mathematicians of our time to inspire and challenge participants to see math in new and exciting ways. The most recent National Math Festival took place in Washington, D.C. on April 22, 2017, where 20,000 visitors experienced engaging experiential programs, interactive exhibits, hands-on activities, and lectures. National Math Festival programs are accessible to a wide range of ages, interests, and preparation levels.

Congressional Briefings: MSRI and the American Mathematical Society (AMS) host two Congressional briefings on mathematical topics each year in Washington, D.C. to inform members of Congress and Congressional staff about new developments made possible through federal support of basic science research.

National Association of Math Circles (NAMC): Organized by MSRI, the National Association of Math Circles provides resources and support for Math Circles and other similar informal mathematics education programs, including professional development and mentoring programs.

Mathical Book Prize: Math is more than numbers and equations! The Mathical Book Prize aims to inspire a love of mathematics in the everyday world in children of all ages. Each year’s winners and honor books join a selective and ever-growing list of new and previously published fiction and non-fiction titles. Mathical titles are as varied as the intersection between literature and mathematics—they encompass picture books, novels, poetry collections, puzzle books, biographies, and more! Mathical is organized by MSRI in partnership with the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM), the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), the Children's Book Council (CBC), and the generous support of the Firedoll Foundation.

CME Group-MSRI Prize in Innovative Quantitative Applications: The CME Group-MSRI Prize recognizes an individual or a group for originality and innovation in the use of mathematical, statistical or computational methods for the study of the behavior of markets, and more broadly of economics. The prize recipient receives a commemorative bronze medallion and a cash award of $50,000, presented at a celebration held at the CME Group headquarters in Chicago. Many past Prize recipients have gone on to receive the Nobel Prize in Economics.

Guerilla Science: Soundscape Sculptures: Guerilla Science create events and installations to connect people with science in new ways, producing live experiences that entertain, inspire, challenge and amaze. MSRI has partnered with Guerilla Science to bring the Fire Organ – the mutant offspring of a Rubens’ tube and a traditional pipe organ – to music festivals and dance parties across the US and UK.


Celebration of Mind: The Celebration of Mind uses puzzles, games, and magic to delight, instruct, and bring people together in a spirit of fun, both at annual gatherings and as a year-round repository of resources. As Martin Gardner said, you can learn more when you’re in a state of entrancement, and so around October 21st of every year, Celebration of Mind events all over the world share the legacy and many interests of this prolific, accessible American writer, who over a 50-year period introduced general audiences to many fascinating topics in mathematics and science.

Bay Area Math Olympiad (BAMO): Middle and high school students from throughout the Bay Area participate in the Bay Area Math Olympiad exam each February to try their hand at increasingly difficult mathematical problem solving and proofs. Following the exam scoring period, an award ceremony and family celebration for all participants is held at MSRI.

Harmonic Series Concerts: MSRI hosts a series of free public concerts during our fall and spring programs, bringing in local and visiting musicians from a variety of genres to perform in the Simons Auditorium for the enjoyment of all.

Art at MSRI: MSRI works with local artists and photographers to host exhibits of prints in our second floor common spaces, available to view by the public during regular building hours. The current exhibit through February 2019 is "Airplane as Art" featuring photographs by Bob Seidemann.

MSRI at the Commonwealth Club: The Commonwealth Club of California is the nation's oldest and largest public affairs forum, bringing together its 20,000 members for more than 400 annual events on topics ranging across politics, culture, society and the economy. MSRI partners with the Club to host public programs featuring some of the world's most interesting mathematical scientists, including Fields Medalist Cédric Villani, world-renowned theoretical physicist Sir Roger Penrose, and mathematical magician Mark Mitton.

Not on the Test: The Pleasure and Uses of Mathematics Lecture Series: MSRI has partnered with Berkeley City College in downtown Berkeley to host a series of free public lectures on the math behind topics ranging from Pixar animation to internet voting and DNA manipulation. You can view recordings of many past presentations at the link above.