Math Circles for the Gifted

Are you looking for meaningful enrichment for your math student? Do you have a young person who is capable of more in-depth math reasoning than is offered in the regular school environment? Do you have a youngster who is excited about mathematics and you want to encourage that excitement? Math circles may offer the stimulation that your student needs.

The programs place precollege students and mathematical professionals together in informal settings. Some math circles focus on high school students, while others focus on students as young as 5. There are also math circles for teachers to help classroom teachers learn to use high-level problems and questioning techniques.

All of these groups meet after school or on weekends in informal environments where participants work together on interesting problems. Some math circles prepare students for high-level competitions, and some avoid competition completely. The groups introduce members to deep mathematical ideas that are not normally covered in classrooms, and they encourage students to tackle tough mathematical questions for themselves.

This concept of study originated in Hungary more than a century ago and soon spread across Eastern Europe and Asia. It is widely believed that it is the presence of these circles that has enabled the youth of countries such as Russia, Bulgaria, and Romania to outperform the United States on average at the International Mathematical Olympiad. Only recently have math circles started in the United States.

To learn more, visit the website for the National Associationof Math Circles. At this site, you will find a list of existing circles; information about summer programs; and lots of resources, including a database of sample problems. There are some excellent videos that you will want to watch that demonstrate the hows and whys of the program. If you are not able to find a math circle in your area, you can read through the detailed tutorial on how to establish one. Math circles may be initiated by teachers, parents, or universities. Ambitious students may also get a program rolling.

Math circles are just one more of the many options available for able students. Never accept the idea that you are limited to the resources available in your immediate school community.

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