Title of Project: Mathematical Circle of Sherbrooke

Year of Competition: 2012

Grant amount: $900

Project Duration: Multi-Year

Type of Report: Annual

Period Covered: September, 2012- September, 2013

Description of Activity:
This is an extracurricular activity for school children during which they solve nonstandard mathematical puzzles of various levels of difficulty.

Currently we have three groups of young people meeting every Saturday for two hour sessions.

Our Math Circle differs from traditional schooling by the active involvement of our participants in the thinking process. In a relaxed and non-competitive atmosphere, we present them with interesting and challenging math problems and puzzles adapted to their level, slowly, step by step, gradually increasing the complexity of questions. The participants are given time to think about problems and to try to find ways to tackle them. As soon as someone has an idea to discuss, one of our teachers (there are at least two per group) listen to him/her personally, so as not to interrupt the thinking process of the others. The teachers monitor this process and give hints at the right moments -- not too early and not too late in order not to spoil the fun of the search for answers. Each student is given a new problem as soon as they resolve the old one. Some solutions and techniques are presented on the blackboard.

Assessment of Effectiveness:
Description of the relationship of the project to the mathematical community and those who participated:

The purpose of this activity is to find young people, between the ages of 11 and 18, inclined to mathematical thinking and to help them develop their abilities.

We believe that sometimes young people just need a positive and fun experience with solving math problems to completely change their attitude towards mathematics and to discover they actually enjoy mathematical challenges. It is our goal to provide participants with such an experience, giving them a chance to reveal their possibly hidden interest in mathematics.

We believe that the activities of the Mathematical Circle encourage students' further interest in mathematics and build their self-confidence in any other activity that involves constructing logical arguments. We hope that this self-confidence will make academic challenges fun for our students and thus will motivate and inspire them for further study and, in some cases, a research career.

At the same time, we involve undergraduate and graduate students in mathematics and in teaching of mathematics to work as Math Circle teachers. Presently, there are two math students and three math education students helping in the Math Circle. Some of them are future high school mathematics teachers in the Sherbrooke region. We hope that heir experience with the Math Circle will positively influence the way they will teach mathematics in the future, will give them hints at how to make their students think creatively.

Discussion of the effectiveness of the training component:

Some of our participants acknowledge that they have grown to be more at ease with mathematics exercises at school since their enrolment with the Circle. They say that they still try to find ways to solve a problem even if they don't know right away how to do it. We also notice an improvement at the level of communication of their ideas to us and to each other, their explanations become more and more clear.

Did any awards or publication result? Did it attract any other support?

Unfortunately, we were unable to attract any other funding due to the small number of participants (we have about 8-10 participants per group).

Future Plans (if any):
We plan to continue our Math Circle and to accommodate one new group every year.

We have divided the grant ($900 minus 15% charged by the University for administering the funds) into 3 equal parts and payed it to our three students working during the 2012-2013 school year as Math Circle teachers. We have about $40 left which we plan to spend on material for the Circle, such as Go stones that we use to illustrate various problems, mostly games where one has to find a winning strategy.

Contact Name: Vasilisa Shramchenko

[September 28, 2013]