Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Math Circles for Young Children

In the fall semester of 2013, I will be working with a few other BYU mathematics faculty to run a Math Circles program for young children, ages 5 through 8.  On this blog, I will share our organizational efforts, lesson plans, and experiences from the actual meetings. 

---  What is a math circle?
According to the Mathematical Association of America (MAA) SIGMAA Special Interest Group on Math Circles,
A math circle is broadly defined as a semi-formal, sustained enrichment experience that brings mathematics professionals in direct contact with pre-college students and/or their teachers. Circles foster passion and excitement for deep mathematics.

---  How does this blog add to the conversation?  What is here that is not available elsewhere?

When my colleagues and I started running our first Junior Math Circle at BYU in 2011, we found a lot of helpful advice.  What we didn't find was a lot of lesson plans geared toward children who were just starting elementary school, who could do a little addition and possibly a little subtraction, but who definitely didn't know how to multiply. 

On this blog, I hope to post ideas for such lesson plans, as well as discussion of what worked and what didn't work, and maybe even some ideas for next time.  I hope this will be a useful repository for people teaching such lessons.  

---  What other information is available on Math Circles? 

There is a lot of information available.  A webpage full of resources is available on the above MAA website.  The National Association of Math Circles also has a lot of helpful information on their website. 

In addition, after a year or so of making up lesson plans from scratch or trying to modify something online, I have purchased a few books to give me ideas on lesson plans.  The ones right here in my office include:
  • James Tanton, Solve This: Math Activities for Students and Clubs.
    • This book is actually written for College math clubs, so much of the math is way too advanced for beginning elementary school students who can't multiply.  But surprisingly, a lot of the activities can be modified to work for younger age groups. 
  • Anna Burago, Mathematical Circle Diaries, Year 1: Complete Curriculum for Grades 5 to 7.
    • Students in 5th to 7th grades typically know a lot more math than our students, but again some of the ideas in this book are helpful.  I like the format of this book.  Each lesson plan includes discussion of how things worked.  We'll include such discussion here on this blog, as well as suggestions for improvement. 
  • Alexander Zvonkin, Math from Three to Seven: The Story of a Mathematical Circle for Preschoolers. 
    • This book was written for students who are younger than ours.  Again, the ideas were interesting.  

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