2016 Circle on the Road

Dates: Oct 28-30, 2016
Location: Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences at NYU

Bringing together new and experienced leaders of Math Circles and other similar outreach programs, the 2016 Circle on the Road included discussions, presentations, and opportunities to facilitate different mathematical problems. In addition, some informal STEM education researchers joined us to further our research and evaluation efforts.

Circle On The Road NY 2016 Flyer

Highlights of the Conference:

  • 3 plenary speakers
  • 1 Math Circle Jam session
  • 12 Ignite talks
  • 13 Math Circle demonstrations
  • 24 contributed talks

Schedule and Other Details

An introduction to Math Circles occurred from 1:00 – 4:00 pm Friday (28th), with registration and informal mathematical program at 5:00 pm (Eastern time) on Friday, and the more formal program starting at 8:00 am Saturday morning. The official program ended on Sunday (30th) at 4 pm, but people were encouraged to continue conversations and enjoy New York afterwards, if their flight arrangements permitted.

Circle On The Road NY 2016 Schedule

A full listing of speakers and abstracts is available here.

Plenary Speaker: Daniel Zaharapol. Saturday 11:15 – 12:30 pm.
Mathematics is supposed to be a universal language, beautiful, expressive of human thought and a vehicle for the study of truth. Then why is not equally accessible to everyone? Students from low-income backgrounds and underrepresented minorities rarely access deeper mathematical study like Math Circles.

Of course, it can be intimidating to reach out to groups where you’re not familiar with their mathematical preparation, their culture, or the challenges they face in their lives. That’s exactly the situation I was in five years ago when I started Bridge to Enter Advanced Mathematics (BEAM). I’ll talk about the lessons we’ve learned about how math circle sessions translate to new communities; how to adjust problems and topics for students who might have less background; and how to fit your program into the lives the students are living.

Plenary Speaker: Julie Cwilka. Saturday 4:30 – 5:45 pm.
How do people learn mathematics? How can math circle leaders capitalize on the ways students problem solve? And how can any of this be captured or measured so circle leaders learn and improve? Dr. Julie Cwikla Professor of Mathematics Education and Director of Creativity & Innovation in STEM at the University of Southern Mississippi serves as our invited speaker. This interactive session will begin by assessing your own genius and ways of thinking, encouraging reflection on others’ manner of thinking. Next, examples of informal STEM learning environments will be shared to think about how practices might be adapted for math circles. And lastly, the group will discuss ways Math Circle leaders have measured and assessed the teaching and learning taking place in their learning spaces and future directions for more extended measurement and evaluation.

Plenary Speaker: Alessandra Pantano. Sunday 8:30 – 9:45 am.
The Math Circle at the University of California, Irvine (‘Math CEO’) has dramatically expanded during the years, and evolved from a small program for a selected group of very talented high school students in the Irvine school district to a far broader mathematical enrichment program for students from a low-performing middle school in a nearby largely Hispanic community. In this talk we will discuss the impact of this program on a variety of constituencies. The pupils have demonstrated increased resilience and determination in tacking mathematical challenges; their parents have developed greater awareness about college opportunities for their children; the volunteers have fostered their passion for giving back to the community; and finally, the key educators have learned valuable skills in promoting inquiry-based learning strategies.

Math Circle Jam session: Led by Dr. Amanda Serenevy and Bob Sachs. Sunday 10:00 am – Noon.
Write up your favorite ideas for Math Circle sessions, help others to write up their sessions, or work with others to develop new ideas for sessions to meet specific needs. We will add new session descriptions to the NAMC website. This is a great opportunity to gather more ideas for your own Math Circle while providing a service to the wider community.

Organizing Committee Members:

  • Diana White (University of Colorado Denver & NAMC)
  • Brandy Wiegers (Central Washington University & NAMC)
  • Berna Falay Ok (Center for Mathematical Talent at the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences at NYU)
  • Selin Kalaycioglu, Center for Mathematical Talent at the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences at NYU

Presentations invited – primarily focused on the following:

Sharing “Math Circle” Sessions: 
Participants had the opportunity to observe numerous one-hour mathematical outreach sessions led by experienced facilitators. In addition, there were opportunities to discuss associated instructional moves and best practices.

Developing “Math Circle” Sessions:
Participants joined one of the working groups to collaborate in designing a mathematical outreach activity. For those interested, collaborative working groups will continue over the next year.

Building and Sharing Community Knowledge:
Participants heard about developing and expanding Math Circle or related outreach programs, research and evaluation, fundraising, logistics and other administrative efforts to support and grow programs. Programs aimed at underserved youth were emphasized.

These talks were submitted in the following categories:

Category 1: Ignite or Blast talks (5 minutes)

These talks generally focused on providing a quick overview of your outreach program, or an innovative aspect of your outreach program, to other attendees. Each talk lasted 5 minutes in length. Not a second longer. Pre-prepared slides were provided to the organizers by Wednesday, October 26. Each slide was programmed to automatically rotate after 15 seconds. At most 20 slides were permitted.

Because of their format, these talks were fun and high-energy. Since giving this type of talk is new to most folks, we strongly recommended practicing your talk (several times!) in advance.

Category 2: Contributed talks (20 minutes)

These talks were 20 minutes, followed by 5 minutes for questions from the audience. These applied to any aspects of mathematical outreach. Possible topics included: evaluation, research, assessment, recruiting and promoting your outreach program, summer and break programs, program enhancements, fundraising, and involving or expanding to include underrepresented youth.

Participants shared best practices (20 minute sessions) or participated in group problem solving collaboration around different problems of practice (5-15 minute problem presentation within a 35 minute collaborative brainstorming session).

Category 3: “Math Circle” sessions (60 minutes)

Participants shared their favorite mathematical outreach activity in a one-hour session with other conference attendees serving as the Circle participants, providing attendees with an activity to bring back to their outreach efforts.


Circle on the Road is a program of the National Association of Math Circles organized in collaboration with the Center for Mathematical Talent at the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences at NYU and is funded by the Sloan Foundation and Mathematical Sciences Research Institute. For information about previous Circle on the Road Conferences please visit the Circle on the Road archive.