Looking back on our first year as the joint leadership team for NAMC, and it’s been a busy one! Fundraising and grant submissions are in full gear. We’ve expanded our involvement in national events, and we are developing new partnerships with other informal mathematics education groups. We also have two new part-time program coordinators – Julie Bickner and Anna Lane - both of whom recently came to Colorado from California and are helping us immensely! You may receive correspondence from them as we work to update our records and to establish more regular correspondence with the Math Circles around the country.
By far our biggest activity this past year has been creating the Math Circle Mentorship and Partnership Program (MC-MAP) to provide training for novice Math Circle leaders. Funded primarily by the National Security Agency, this program is currently supporting six Novice Math Circles and three Mentor Math Circles. We launched this program with a three-day workshop at the University of Colorado Denver (CU Denver) in September 2015. The workshop brought together 39 mathematicians and educators from around the country for training on the academic and administrative components of leading Math Circles. More details are on the next page. Pending funding, a new cycle will begin this summer – with a training workshop at CU Denver the week of June 27-30, 2016. Applications are due March 15, 2016 – see the flyer at the end of this newsletter for more details.
Concurrently, as part of the workshop, NAMC collaborated with CU Denver and the Julia Robinson Math Festival leadership team to hold the first Julia Robinson Math Festival held in Colorado. 324 middle-school students from six schools across the greater Denver metro area participated, all brought to CU Denver by teachers who regularly participate in the Rocky Mountain Math Teachers’ Circle.
Our efforts to expand collaborations continue. In November, NAMC Director Diana White spent a week at Banff International Research Station in Alberta Canada representing NAMC and the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute at the first International Math Outreach Workshop. Outreach experts from Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, Denmark, France, and the United States shared their work (the similarities and challenges of both activities were amazing), and the group decided to collaborate more closely by forming Mathematics Outreach International, an ad hoc committee to investigate more formal structures to share knowledge and efforts in the future.
We have other projects in the works that we look forward to sharing in the next newsletter. We’re actively working on fundraising both for grants to support these and other Math Circles. Please ensure that you are registered on our website, mathcircles.org, and also check out our Facebook page for up-to-date announcements.
We look forward to seeing many of you at the Joint Math Meetings in January – please do drop by the NAMC reception on Friday evening – location to be announced on Facebook and via email.
Diana White, Director
National Association of Math Circles
Associate Professor, University of Colorado Denver
Brandy Wiegers, Associate Director
National Association of Math Circles
Assistant Professor, Central Washington University
National Association of Math Circles (NAMC) ￼Kicks-Off new Mentorship and Partnership Program
By Diana White, Director, NAMC
Brandy Wiegers, Associate Director, NAMC
Anna Lane, Program Coordinator, NAMC
“It is easy to say that you want to help children learn mathematics and problem solving in a different way. The workshop is practically a complete bridge between talking about it and doing it.”
The National Association of Math Circles (NAMC) recently kicked of the new Math Circle - Mentorship and Partnership (MC-MAP) Program. Organized by NAMC Director, Dr. Diana White, and Associate Director, Dr. Brandy Wiegers, the program was kicked-off by an intensive three-day training workshop in mid-September at the University of Colorado Denver (CU Denver). A group of 39 mathematicians and educators gathered from around the country to participate in the workshop, aimed at training 14 novice leadership teams on the academic and administrative components of leading Math Circles. The hands-on workshop included structured planning time for leadership teams to bring initial ideas to life under the guidance of the eight Math Circle mentor leaders, who collectively provided a broad array of Math Circle experience. As you can see from the representative participant quote above, the training was a success.
To provide hands-on training with facilitating mathematical questioning and exploration, aspects that are crucial for creating engaged Math Circle culture, the NAMC and CU Denver co-sponsored the first Colorado Julia Robinson Math Festival. The event brought together 324 middle school students from six schools across the greater Denver metro area, as well as one school from Steamboat Springs, whose participants drove over four hours to participate! Throughout the festival, students explored mathematical problems under the guidance of both the MC-MAP workshop participants as well as 39 CU Denver faculty members, graduate students, and undergraduate students. Workshop participants found that working with the middle school students was helpful for their development as Math Circle leaders. As stated by one participant, “The Julia Robinson Math Festival was great motivation to offer one [festival] and gave practice on Math Circles mentality.”
In addition to the festival, MC-MAP participants participated in a new Math Circle observation experience, viewing a lifestream of one of the monthly Rocky Mountain Math Teachers’ Circle sessions. Math Circle Novice leaders observed from three different classrooms, each with a different focus for their discussions. Long-time NAMC contributors and outreach specialists Josh Zucker and Dr. Amanda Serenevy each led half the session, providing two different styles of problems and various facilitation techniques for the participants to observe. When asked about this structured observation one participant said, “What a great opportunity. We almost never get to sit ‘outside’ a learning environment to watch, learn, and discuss.”
Complementing these hands-on training experiences, participants spent time planning with their leadership teams, receiving feedback from their mentors and other participants, learning about available resources for planning sessions, and hearing about other resources available to them from NAMC and other organizations whose missions overlap with ours. The newly developed NAMC Math Circle Handbook was perhaps the most commented upon resource, and NAMC will continue to expand and develop it as Math Circle leaders across the country contribute to it.
This workshop kicked off a year-long program of support for the novice Math Circle teams. Throughout the academic year we will continue to provide support through a listserv and monthly webinars, as well as by having mentors and novice Math Circles visit each other to exchange ideas. We’ll be reporting on the other resources being developed in the next newsletters and hope to repeat the workshop each year with a new cohort of novice Math Circles. We look forward to building on this success as the MC-MAP program continues to grow.