### Q: What is a Math Circle?

A: Math circles are math enrichment programs for school students. The "Math Circle" term has its origins in Russia and Eastern Europe. Math Circles are weekly get-togethers where math-interested students from schools work on fun and challenging math problems guided by math professionals. Currently there are several very successful math circles in the U.S. which are run in a wide variety of styles.

There are many different styles of math circles. Here is a description of our vision for the 6th and 7th grade math circle. It is a place for children who love math to learn about some of the deeper concepts of math. It is different from most classrooms: the teacher does much less lecturing, a few minutes or maybe none, and the kids are much more responsible for the path to the solution.

A question, perhaps ill formed, is posed that should lead to a major insight and many minor insights. (An ill formed question lets the kids learn that real problems don’t come in the kind of neat packages that classroom problems usually come in.) Then the teacher stands back as much as possible and lets the kids discover the answer. Or, as Bob Kaplan, www.themathcircle.org, says, the teacher poses a question and lets “congenial conversation take over”. So, along the way, the kids will learn how to hold this conversation. They can ask questions and make statements without raising their hand but they might need to learn not to interrupt.

The goal is to have the children take charge of the discovery of the answer. Along the way, they should get getter at clarifying what the question or questions are, experience frustration and learn that work will get you past it, have fun, and discover something new about math. Depending on the question, this can take from half an hour to ten 90 minute sessions.