What is a Math Circle?

Math Circles for students bring K-12 students together with mathematically sophisticated leaders in an informal setting, after school or on weekends, to work on interesting problems or topics in mathematics. Math Circles combine significant content with settings that encourage a sense of discovery and excitement about mathematics through problem solving and interactive exploration. Ideal problems are low-threshold, high-ceiling; they offer a variety of entry points and can be approached with minimal mathematical background, but lead to deep mathematical concepts and can be connected to advanced mathematics.  Because of this focus on mathematical problem-solving and developing participants’ mathematical habits of mind, Math Circles provide a relatively easy entry point for mathematicians to engage with K-12 students in mathematically meaningful ways.

Math Circles in the United States have been strongly influenced by Math Circle programs developed over the last century in Eastern European countries. These vertically-integrated, informal mathematical communities of practice in which advanced mathematicians guide the exploration of young students were an integral experience of many mathematicians who attended Eastern European schools. As those who had grown up in this system came to the United States, they created similar programs to offer the same type of learning experience to their own students.

Today there are more than 200 active Math Circle programs across the country, with more than 220 Circles formed since 1994. The national Math Circle landscape includes two types of Circles: one for K-12 teachers of mathematics (MTCs) and one for students (MSCs). There are approximately 100 active Math Student Circles across the country.

Interest in Math Circles remains high and continues to grow, with increasing numbers of faculty aiming to start Math Circles at their institutions. Over the past decade, this group has grown into a vibrant community with much potential for future growth.