Meet Our Team
Nancy Blachman’s love of mathematics and puzzles goes back to her high school days when she took George Polya’s short course in mathematical logic, did a research project on continued fractions, and participated in the Saint Mary’s Math Contest, which was held at Saint Mary’s College in Maraga, California. These experiences taught her that it was more fun to learn by discovery than to be told how to solve problems or just apply formulae. She subsequently earned degrees in mathematics, computer science, and operations research from the University of Birmingham (UK), Stanford, and UC Berkeley, respectively.
Nancy has written several books on Mathematica, in 2003 created Google Guide, and in 2007 founded the Julia Robinson Mathematics Festival, which inspires students to explore the richness and beauty of mathematics in a cooperative environment. She is now Chair of Gathering 4 Gardner and she is also Chair of the UCB IEOR Advisory Board.
Mark Saul grew up in the Bronx and graduated from Columbia University and New York University. He then spent 35 years in and around New York City, teaching mathematics from grades 3 through 12.
More recently, Saul served as Director of Competitions for the Mathematical Association of America. He has been a consultant in gifted education for the John Templeton Foundation and program director for the National Science Foundation. He is a 1984 recipient of the Presidential Award for Mathematics and Science Teaching.
Saul directed the Research Science Institute at MIT and in Shanghai. Internationally, he has given talks and led workshops in more than 15 countries. He served as President of the American Regions Mathematics League, mathematics field editor of Quantum (the English-language version of the Russian journal Kvant), and associate editor of the AMS Notices. His publications include twelve books, as well as numerous articles and translations.
DIRECTOR OF FESTIVALS
Hector Rosario holds a Ph.D. in mathematics education from Columbia University and was a tenured professor of mathematics at the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez (2003-2015). He moved to North Carolina in 2015, where he co-founded the Chapel Hill Math Circle, founded the Triangle Math Teachers’ Circle, and taught at three different prisons through UNC’s Correctional Education Program. He moved to Georgia in 2017 to teach at a Title I high school.
He is the co-author of Math Makes Sense! A Constructivist Approach to the Teaching and Learning of Mathematics(2016) and the principal editor of the 17-country anthology Mathematics and Its Teaching in the Southern Americas (2016). His third book, an anthology of mathematical outreach initiatives, should be out in 2019.
Lora Saarnio helps organizers across the US and internationally to prepare logistically and mathematically for upcoming festivals. She co-organized the first JRMF in China, India, and Ireland. Lora is also a math specialist for Grades 1-4 at The Nueva School (nuevaschool.org) in Hillsborough, CA, which is an internationally-recognized independent PreK-12 school, serving gifted and talented students. She also is on the faculty of Epsilon Camp (epsiloncamp.org), a mathematics camp for students, 7-11 years old, who love math. Lora is actively involved with Math Circles — this past school year, she was a guest speaker for Stanford, Nueva, Santa Cruz, Synapse, New Dehli, and Bullis Charter School Math Circles. Recently, she won the Sarah D. Barder Fellowship, a national teaching award from Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth.
INTERACTIVE LEARNING ENGINEER
Sam Woodard a math teacher and software engineer who is working to find how technology can best help students learn math. He helps the Julia Robinson Math Festival transform their mathematically rich activities into interactive apps that facilitate deeper student understanding.
Sam studied Computer Science and Mechanical Engineering at UC Berkeley and has taught math at both the middle school and high school levels. He was the founder of MathChat, an education technology startup company that created an app to enabled students to collaborate on math problems. Sam’s current work is to explore how to utilize fully current technology to enable students to deeply engage and develop an understanding of foundational math concepts.
Katie LaSeur is a designer, art director and creative projects/people manager based in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Katie has a Graphic Design degree from School of Visual Arts in New York City. She discovered a passion in the development of games, puzzles and toys while working for ThinkFun, first as their Art Director and then as Product Development Director.
Katie now divides her time between Julia Robinson Mathematics Festival and Gathering 4 Gardner, another non-profit devoted to stimulating curiosity in math, puzzles and magic.
Joshua Zucker co-founded the Math Teachers’ Circle and was the founding Director of Julia Robinson Mathematics Festival.
Josh leads workshops on how to run Math Teachers’ Circles and he leads Math Circles throughout the Bay Area for students and teachers of all ages. He is also an instructor for the Art of Problem Solving. As a high school student, Josh was a member of the first US team to compete at the International Physics Olympiad. He graduated from Stanford in 1990 with a BS in Physics and MS in Mathematics. Josh then earned an MS in Astronomy at UC Berkeley.
PHILANTHROPIC RELATIONS & OUTREACH
Jennifer Kane has been advising philanthropists and nonprofit leaders for more than two decades. Her career has included work with Hewlett-Packard, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, Silicon Valley Community Foundation and Benetech. With a base in Silicon Valley, a network that spans the globe, and expertise in the worlds of technology, media, private foundations, donor advised funds and community foundations, Jennifer has facilitated more than $200 million in grants and impact investments. As founder of Empower Philanthropy, Jennifer is passionate about building bridges for action and funding among dedicated individuals who share a vision for how to change the world for the better.
Jennifer enjoys playing with logic and visual-spatial transformation puzzles with her family, and she believes the mathematics in nature can be used to draw more people in to appreciate the beauty and depth of mathematical patterns.