National Association of Math Circles Wiki
Paperwork

This section will be kept short and sweet. Administrative tasks may not top every coordinator's list of favorite activities, but there is no substitute for being prepared ahead of time with useful forms to ensure that a math circle runs smoothly. Some common aspects of a circle's operation which may require preparing a form are listed below. Samples of many of these appear in the corresponding appendix to provide a guide for preparation. The only one that is really essential for a moderately sized, informal math circle is the registration form; include others as necessary.

Organizers might choose to group information by student, so that each person attending receives a single sheet of paper which contains details about the math circle, lists ways in which families can get involved, provides instructions for donations or tuition, requests information about the participant, and perhaps includes waivers and space for signatures. Alternatively, the organizer could; collect information by topic, so that one sheet of paper contains all registration information, another is used for attendance, a third handles volunteer sign-up, and so on. Each approach has its advantages; for example, the latter option makes more sense if a helper will be creating an email list, since all the necessary information will already be together in one place. Choose whichever option seems most appropriate.

  • Registration. It is extremely useful to track information on all individuals who attend the math circle. At the very least it is helpful to know each student’s name, grade level, school name, and email address. Declare unequivocally at the top of the form that students’ personal contact information will not be distributed to any other individuals or organizations, then abide by this policy. In the event that someone does have a legitimate reason to reach a student, offer to contact that student on their behalf so that the student has a choice of whether or not to respond.
  • Attendance. Recording who is present serves many purposes. Knowing total attendance each week and the change of this quantity over time provides a rough gauge of student interest and can be important to include in a report of the circle to those funding it. It is also helpful to know the number of students at each grade level who are participating on a regular basis. In addition, one can present awards for perfect (or nearly so) attendance.
  • Welcome. In lieu of meeting with parents, an organizer might prepare a letter for them to pick up the first time they attend. This letter could begin by expressing appreciation for transporting kids and describing the wonderful speakers lined up for the year. It could then go on to provide an overview of the circle’s operation, discuss ways that parents could volunteer or otherwise become involved with the circle, and explain how donations or tuition works, if applicable.
  • Volunteering. One means of obtaining volunteer support for chores such as providing snacks each week is to set out a form asking parents to sign up for various dates. Leave space for volunteers to provide their name, phone, and email address for each date or task. Another creative approach (inspired by a kindergarten teacher) consists of writing “wish list” items on post-it notes so that parents can sign up for providing items or performing duties for the circle by simply removing a note and taking it with them. These requests might include one prize for the monthly contest, signs for directing new students to the room, email list maintenance, or anything else that a coordinator needs on a regular basis.
  • Consent forms. Some math circles will need students to sign waivers in order to abide by university policies for use of rooms or for insurance purposes. These may include agreements not to sue the university in case of injury or to abide by all math circle policies. It is also necessary to obtain consent from parents of minors to post their pictures at the web site or include them in video clips.

Besides keeping attendance and updating email lists, there are a few other weekly administrative tasks that bear brief mention. For example, it is good practice to get in touch with upcoming speakers to remind them of their presentations, arrange for any special needs such as a laptop projector, request a sheet of additional problems, and generally fill them in on what to expect on the big day. In the same manner, Weekly tasks some organizers like to send a description of upcoming meetings and make announcements each week to all students on the email list. Other weekly tasks might involve updating the web site with the latest handouts or assembling questions for warm-ups or math games. No doubt each organizer will quickly develop their own weekly routine.

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