Math Circles in California

Math circles are essentially groups of students who share a love for advanced math and problem-solving. Here’s a list of the leading student math circles in California

If you are a math-loving student who wishes to pursue advanced mathematical concepts, a math circle is the ideal platform for your talent. Read on to know about the biggest math circles in California

Math Circles in California

Dec 06, 2018    By Team YoungWonks *


Home to several leading tech companies in the world, California is known for its science and math-savviness. This is also why the state is now home to several math circles, a growing phenomenon in math education around North America. This blog tells you all about the leading math circles, aka math groups, for school students in California. 


What is a Math Circle?

A math circle can be described as a social structure where young math enthusiasts partake in the intricacies of mathematical thinking by setting and working towards achieving mathematical goals through problem-solving and mathematical modeling. Not all circles feature competitions and formal exams; some are very informal with the learning imparted through games, stories, or hands-on activities. All of them are aimed at fostering a sense of camaraderie among math enthusiasts; they all have students who like and pursue the study of math, so the math circles offer students a social context in which to enjoy mathematics. 

This form of mathematical outreach can be traced to the mathematical cultures prevalent in Eastern Europe, particularly Russia and Bulgaria. The tradition reached the US with immigrants who had received their inspiration from math circles as teenagers. These days, math circles frequently partner with other mathematical education organizations, such at the Julia Robinson Mathematics Festival and the Mandelbrot Competition. 

So in effect, math circles are meetups between math experts and K-12 students or teachers where they work on problem solving and understanding mathematics as a discipline of inquiry where one conjectures and explores concepts in math with other people as opposed to just learning the established formulae. Typically, they take place outside a regular school day and the instructors are usually university professors or graduate students in math. 

Below are the leading math circles in California:

Davis Math Circle 

The Davis Math Circle is a student-run, volunteer-based outreach program for Northern California high school and middle school students. It aims to looking beyond the standard math curriculum in schools. 

Classes/ Events/ Competitions: The Davis Math Circle events mainly comprise of guest presentations and math lessons. This fall (2019), it had sessions by experts held over eight Saturdays (12-2 pm PST) spread across October, November and December at the Mathematical Sciences Building 2112 on the UC Davis Campus; topics covered included probability, geometry, algebra, number theory and combinatorics. 

How To Join: These lessons are ideal for students in grades 6 to 10; the sessions are free and run on a drop-in basis. One can join by writing to ucdmathcircle@gmail.com. For more info, visit: https://davismathcircle.wordpress.com.  


Euler Circle

Euler Circle is a San Francisco Bay Area-based mathematics institute for advanced (high school) students. It provides a range of college-level mathematics classes and each class is the equivalent of an upper-division college mathematics class, so students tackle several problems to become familiar with new material and give a presentation after working on a paper on a topic related to the class material. 

Classes/ Events/ Competitions: Euler Circle believes in promoting math pursuits beyond competitions. The subject is studied through advanced classes which meet for four hours a week. They are held on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings (during the period January 7 to March 11, 2020) from 6:30–8:30 pm at the Cubberley Community Center in Palo Alto. Their advanced class in winter 2020, starting in January) will be on infinite series and intermediate class will be on transitioning to proofs in combinatorics. 

Meanwhile, intermediate classes meet for three hours a week. They are held on Monday evenings (during the period January 6 to March 9, 2020) from 5:30–8:30 pm, also at the Cubberley Community Center in Palo Alto. These are classes on proof techniques and mathematical writing. 

How To Join: While official application deadline has passed, you can still apply and get in if there’s space available. You can go here to know more: https://eulercircle.com/apply/. Typically, a course costs around $900. However, they also offer waivers to accepted students who cannot afford to pay due to financial hardship. 


Fresno Math Circle

The Fresno Math Circle is a junior math club meant for students in grades 3-12 who have a keen interest in mathematics. The purpose of this circle is to introduce members to mathematical ideas that are not taught in school, work on challenging problems, discuss key concepts at a greater depth than is usually done in school and grow one’s logic and reasoning skills. 

Classes/ Events/ Competitions: The Fresno Math Circle runs from September to May every year. The sessions are conducted by mathematics faculty assisted by Fresno State students. Grades 4-9 meet every other Saturday from 10 - 11:30 am and are taught by mathematics faculty assisted by Fresno State students. Meanwhile, grades 10-12 meet every other Thursday from 5:30 - 7:30 pm and are taught by Fresno State faculty. In addition, it offers preparation sessions for these competitions: AMC 8, AMC 10/12, Math Kangaroo and Math Field Day. 

How To Join: The Fresno Math Circle is free (open to donations though) and is open to students in grades 4-12 at public, private, or home schools. For more info, visit: http://www.fresnostate.edu/csm/fmc/apply.html 


Fremont Math Circle

Through the Fremont Math Circle, the MathPi Academy of Fremont offers all math-loving students valuable enrichment programs. In fact, this math circle is affiliated with the National Association of Math Circles and it is a proud partner of Bay Area Math Circles including the Math Teacher’s Circle and the San Francisco Math Circle. The Fremont Math Circle classes begin on the Tuesday after Labor Day; this fall, the classes began on September 3, 2019 and have 10-13 sessions for students of different grades (from grade 1 to 6). The group has now joined hands with The Gifted In Fremont - an association of GATE qualified students of the Fremont Unified School District. 

Classes/ Events/ Competitions: University professors specializing in pre-algebra, pre-calculus, algebra 1, calculus 1, statistics and data analysis teach and design the courses on these subjects in the circle. The class strength typically is 4 to 12 students. 

How To Join:  You can write to them at info@mathpiacademy.com​ Or visit their website at: ​www.mathpiacademy.com

Stanford Math Circle

The Stanford Math Circle hosts three month-sessions for local elementary, middle, and high school students who are interested in mathematics. Held weekly on Stanford University’s campus, math circle sessions are aimed at helping students solve problems involving complex and advanced mathematical topics under guidance from mathematicians and educators. There are five levels within the mathematics circle: a) For grades 1-2 b)  For grades 3-4 c) For grades 5 and 6 d) For grades 7 and 8 and lastly, e) For grades 9 to 12. In the elementary circle (for grades spanning 1 to 4), the classes dwell more on logical reasoning and problem solving, whereas in the middle (for grades spanning 5 to 8) and advanced  (for grades spanning 9 to 12) circles, students are exposed to skills and topics in higher mathematics that are outside the standard mathematics curriculum.

Classes/ Events/ Competitions: Some of the Stanford Math Circle sessions include practising for middle school and high school mathematics contests such as the American Mathematics Contest 8 (AMC 8) for students in the 8th grade and younger, American Regions Mathematics League (ARML) and BAMO, but that is not their main goal.

Classes are offered throughout the academic year from September through May, with 10 sessions in each quarter. The fall quarter runs from late September through early December, the winter quarter is from January through March, and the spring quarter starts in early April to end by early June; they do not offer a summer quarter. 

How To Join: Applications become available at the beginning of each Fall quarter; students are accepted on a lottery basis. The application opens two months ahead of the Fall Quarter session. One can sign up for their mailing list to be notified about an opening in the math circle. After the Fall Quarter application closes, all new applications received are placed on the waitlist for possible openings in Winter and Spring Quarters. The fee stands at $350 per academic quarter; financial aid is available to deserving students. Visit https://mathcircle.spcs.stanford.edu/ for more details. 


Berkeley Math Circle

The Berkeley Math Circle (BMC) is a weekly program for over 500 San Francisco Bay Area elementary, middle and high school students. The weekly sessions are held on Tuesday evenings at the UC Berkeley campus. The program is jointly sponsored by the following organizations: UC Berkeley Mathematics Department, UC Berkeley Economics Department, UC Berkeley Statistics Department, UC Berkeley Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) Department, Mathematical Science and Research Institute (MSRI), Simons Institute for Theory of Computing, The Berkeley Artificial Intelligence Research Lab (BAIR), CITRIS Vanguard Charitable and parents’ contribution.  

Classes/ Events/ Competitions: BMC conducts a monthly test for its students where each student is given a set of five problems, and four weeks later, the written solutions are collected for evaluation. 

More importantly, each year, a sizeable chunk of the Berkeley Math Circle students take part in the Bay Area Math Olympiad (BAMO). About a hundred mathematics teachers, researchers, graduate and undergraduate students, as well as professionals from related areas in industry, are associated with the Bay Area math circles and the BAMO each year. Students are also known to participate and excel in prestigious contests such as the United States of America Mathematical Olympiad (USAMO), Intel Science Talent Search and the International Mathematical Olympiad. 

How To Join: BMC Upper Spring 2020 classes will be held on Wednesdays, starting January 22 through May 6, 2020. The deadline for applications was in December 2019. One can visit http://mathcircle.berkeley.edu/​ for more details. 


San Diego Math Circle 

Hosted by the University of California, San Diego, and managed by dedicated parent volunteers, the San Diego Math Circle aims to have students (mainly from grades 5 to 12) excel at mathematics by helping them develop a good understanding of how to solve problems. Students are taught by professionals from the greater San Diego area. 

Classes/ Events/ Competitions: Typically, classes take place on Saturday mornings and Sunday afternoons. This Math Circle offers help for competitions such as AMC 8, AMC 10/12, Math Kangaroo, USAMO. 

How To Join: One can register here: http://www.sdmathcircle.org/home/registration


San Jose Math Circle

The San Jose Math Circle has an esteemed bunch of math experts at its helm and its goal is to help students tackle fascinating topics such as combinatoriacs, sequences and series, number theory, games and codes, puzzles, logic and proofs (among many more) in a fun manner. 

Classes/ Events/ Competitions: The San Jose Math Circle meets regularly on Friday nights from 7:00-9:00 pm, September through May. Meetings are held at San Jose State University in MacQuairre Hall on the third floor. The meeting schedule for each year is updated in early September. 

The Math Circle is also known to conduct its monthly math contest, where math problems are handed out near the beginning of the month (also available on the website). Students are then encouraged to work on these problems during the month and hand in their solutions by the due date mentioned on the problem sheet. Solutions are usually available on the website within a month.

How To Join: SJMC opens student registration in mid-April and closes in mid-May.  They usually send an announcement to their mailing list and post it on their website in early April of each year. Visit https://sanjosemathcircle.org/ ​for more details. 


Los Angeles Math Circle

Los Angeles Math Circle (LAMC) is a top-ranked math circle that aims to aid elementary, middle and high school students who are interested in mathematics. A program of the Department of Mathematics at UCLA, this math circle focuses on showcasing the beauty of mathematics and its applications and improving problem solving skills. 

Classes/ Events/ Competitions: The LAMC also devotes time to preparing its students for a variety of contests and competitions, such as American Mathematical Competitions, Math Kangaroo and the Bay Area Math Olympiad, among many others. Classes (free of cost although donations are encouraged) take place on Sundays in the Math Sciences building at UCLA. 

Classes are open to students across all grade levels, K-12. The classes follow the fall quarter to summer quarter cycle. The summer program is completely independent of the academic year program. Applications for summer session open up every May. 

How To Join: One can visit the following link for more details and registration: https://circles.math.ucla.edu/circles/


Santa Barbara Math Ellipse 

The Santa Barbara Math Ellipses are a set of math circles; first came a math circle for high school students in January 2010, then one for junior high school students in September 2010, followed by a math circle for upper elementary school students in April 2013, and, lastly, a math circle for lower elementary school students in February 2015. These math circles provide school-going math lovers the opportunity to work together on intriguing mathematical topics not covered by their school curriculum. 

Classes/ Events/ Competitions: The math circles meet once a week after school, at SB Family School in Goleta. It’s open to interested students (from grades 4 to 6) in the Santa Barbara area. Admission is on a first-come, first-served basis.

How To Join: One can visit http://santabarbaramathellipse.org​ to register.


Integrating Coding and Mathematics

In expanding the horizon of mathematical learning, integrating coding skills can be immensely beneficial for students. The logical reasoning and problem-solving skills honed in Math Circles find a practical and creative outlet in programming. For those looking to venture into this interdisciplinary realm, the coding classes for kids offered by YoungWonks provide a comprehensive curriculum. Engaging in both mathematics and coding can pave the way for a well-rounded understanding of the logical and computational world, fostering a community of learners ready to tackle modern-day challenges with a robust analytical toolkit.


Additional Resources:

*Contributors: Compiled by Vidya Prabhu; Lead image by: Leonel Cruz

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