Media Release – April 13, 2022
Canadian Mathematical Society

A Message from the Canadian Mathematical Society Regarding the Name of the Canadian Mathematical Gray Jay Competition

In 2020, The Canadian Mathematical Society (CMS) launched an exciting new international competition for elementary students. This competition was created to provide additional opportunities to students worldwide to benefit from the practice of mathematics, while honouring Canada through its name. With this in mind, the competition was named “The Canadian Mathematical Gray Jay Competition.” It was recently brought to our attention that the name of the bird has been changed to the “Canada Jay,” and in wanting to remain current, we will thus be changing the name of our competition to “The Canada Jay Mathematical Competition (CJMC)” effective immediately.

The Competition was introduced as the Canadian Mathematical Gray Jay Competition (CMGC) and is open to students in grades K-8, with questions based primarily on grades 5-8 curricula. This competition was created by mathematicians from across Canada. The CMS is excited to continue this program as the Canada Jay Mathematical Competition (CJMC).

About the Canada Jay:

In North America, official scientific, English, and French bird names are adjudicated by a dedicated committee of what is now known as the American Ornithological Society or “AOS” (and before 2016 as the American Ornithologists’ Union or “AOU”). “Canada Jay,” restored as the official English name in 2018, goes back to at least the early 1800s. In fact, by using “Gray Jay’ in its 1957 checklist, the AOU needlessly violated one of its own stated naming principles, namely that “traditional vernacular names should be retained whenever possible.” When a group of mostly Canadian ornithologists pointed out this error in late 2017 and proposed that “Canada Jay” be restored as the official name, the AOS graciously agreed and formally announced the restoration, a few months later, in July 2018.

–  Dan Strickland, world expert on the Canada Jay

On November 16, 2016, at their College of Fellows Annual Dinner in the Canadian War Museum, the Royal Canadian Geographical Society (RCGS) stunned many Canadians (and some folks elsewhere in the world, too!) by choosing the third-place Canada Jay over the first-place Common Loon as their candidate to be Canada’s national bird. But you could not find a more Canadian bird. First, as a member of the corvid family (crows, ravens, magpies and jays), it is one of the smartest birds on the planet. Its brain-to-body ratio is equivalent to that of the chimpanzee and dolphin and nearly rivals that of the human. Second, the Canada Jay is extremely tough and hardy. By not leaving the country in winter, it has adapted itself to not only surviving our harsh Canadian winters but breeding then as well. This bird is known to incubate its eggs at -30 Celsius! Third, Canada Jays are extremely friendly, readily coming down to perch on open hands, even without food, and on ski poles, cameras and spotting scopes, without any training whatsoever. Fourth, unlike many songbirds in the world, Canada Jays are not promiscuous and the mates do not cheat on each other. The pair remains together year-round, often flying together everywhere and even perching side by side, touching each other. So, we’ve got “smart,” “hardy,” “friendly” and “loyal.” What better way to describe the typical Canadian, eh?

– David M. Bird, Emeritus Professor of Wildlife Biology, McGill University, and Leader of Team Canada Jay

About the Canada Jay Mathematical Competition:

The Canada Jay Mathematical Competition (CJMC) is a Canadian math competition open to students in grades K-8, with questions based primarily on grades 5-8 curricula. This competition was created by mathematicians from across Canada.

The problems are meant to be a fun fall activity for students and teachers to complement their math curriculum and to build students’ problem-solving skills. The CJMC will offer engaging problems that will allow for discussion after the competition and get students excited about mathematics. The competition has 15 questions which participants are given 90 minutes to answer. It consists of 3 blocks of 5 questions with an increasing level of difficulty from beginning to end.

CMS is committed to contributing to a more inclusive and diverse environment in the mathematical community. Funding is available for students who identify as Black or Indigenous to participate in the CJMC free of charge. For more information, please visit the CMS Inclusion Initiative page.

To learn more, please visit our website.

For additional information, please contact :


Termeh Kousha (PhD)
Executive Director
Canadian Mathematical Society
or Jessica Horobetz
Communications Officer
Canadian Mathematical Society