Frequently Asked Questions
Math circles are weekly gatherings of high school (or younger) students working on problems involving complex and advanced mathematical topics, guided by mathematicians and educators. We offer three levels of mathematics circle:
These programs are primarily for students who are already excited about mathematics and want to see -- and do -- more than they have the opportunity to do in school. In the elementary circle, the focus is on logical reasoning, "thinking like a mathematician" and problem solving, rather than on mathematical acceleration. In the middle and advanced circles, students are exposed to skills and topics in higher mathematics that are outside the standard curriculum.
We will also do some practice sessions for middle school and high school mathematics contests (such at the AMC contests, BAMO, ARML, etc.), but that is not our primary emphasis.
The Stanford Math Circle runs during the Stanford academic year -- 10 weeks in the fall quarter (from late September through early December), 10 weeks in the winter quarter (from January through March) and in the spring quarter (early April through early June). We do not offer a summer program (though there are other academic summer programs run by Stanford Pre-Collegiate Studies).
Go to the application page to apply to the math circle.(Applications are only accepted before each academic quarter, check our public mailing list or our home page for updated information when applications are being received.)
You're more than welcome to join us at any time during the year. We
love to meet new people interested in math! In general, the sessions
and topics are independent of each other. Some sessions will be harder
and some will be easier, depending on the instructor and the particular
topic. (Please note that the elementary and middle school circles have
more severe space limitations and are not able to accomodate visitors.
If space becomes available during a quarter, students will be drawn
from the waiting list of those who applied for that quarter.)
The advanced SMC is open to all motivated students in grades 9-12, regardless of background or level. We try to provide problems and materials that are interesting to and suitable for a range of mathematical abilities. If you're interested in math, you are welcome to come! Exceptional middle school students are also welcome, but should try a session or two before deciding if they wish to register. Middle school students applying for the advanced math circle may be asked to show evidence of readiness (math contest scores, participation in other math programs or classes).
The Middle School and elementary school circles do not require knowledge of math beyond grade-level, though many participants in the circle may have some such knowledge. What is required is enthusiasm for mathematical reasoning and a desire to spend time thinking abstractly.
We do restrict participation the elementary math circle to students in first grade and above. This is because of social readiness, not mathematical ability! We do recognize that there are many kindergarten students who are capable of exceptional mathematical reasoning.
Absolutely! As many practicing research mathematicians will tell
you, it often takes several years to become an experienced problem
solver. It's completely fine (and expected) if you need to see a
particular topic or discuss a particular idea several times before it
starts to make sense. Keep in mind that the material discussed in SMC
sessions is very advanced and non-traditional.
Parents can help with various aspects of the circle, from providing
refreshments during the circle breaks, to helping with the overall
organization or donating to the circle. We are completely open to new
ideas, and welcome any suggestions that you may have!
The elementary math circles also use room parents who assist the instructors during class. The instructors will choose these parents.