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Going Around in Math Circles

Perhaps you have heard about Math Circles....and I do not mean the kind represented in the accompanying picture.

Math Circles engage mathematicians in informal conversations with pre-college students. Often occurring after school or on weekends, the mix of mathematicians and students generally work on solving interesting mathematical problems. The primary goal is "to get the students excited about the mathematics, giving them a setting that encourages them to become passionate about mathematics."

Historically, Math Circles sprang up in Hungary more than 100 years ago. From there, the idea spread throughout Europe (especially Eastern) and Asia. The idea supposedly led to the offering of national and international math contests (e.g. International Mathematical Olympiad). The first Mathematical Circle in the United States was started by UC-Berkeley in 1998.

MSRI's National Association of Math Circles is the definitive resource for anyone wanting to either know more about Math Circles or to create/sponsor a Math Circle of their own. Be aware, as the website notes, the idea of a Math Circle takes time and commitment...on the part of both the mathematicians and students.

The Math Circles website offers multiple resources:

  • Video of a Math Circle in action
  • Links to similar community groups (for support)
  • Tips on getting started
  • Finite Set Problems
  • Math Circle Problem Collection
  • Sources of grant funds to support a Math Circle
The idea of a Math Circle is good, but I cannot help but add that we are lucky that they were not originally called Math Squares...though befitting some may conclude.