About Teaching

For Math Circles

Possibly useful activities for math enrichment


Henri Picciotto

Down to links

In my first real job in the 1970's I was both a classroom teacher in grades 4-5 and a math specialist in grades K-5. What this extraordinary arrangement meant in practice is that I was allowed and in fact encouraged to develop an enrichment strand for all these levels. This was a lot of fun for me and my students.

My options were much reduced when I became a high school math teacher, given the enormous pressure to "cover" the curriculum. Still, I tried to inject some of that energy into my teaching, and to create elective classes where students could engage in math outside of the arithmetic-to-calculus highway.

I also started to share some of the not-as-curricular materials I had developed over the years in other venues, including occasional sessions with kids in after-school contexts, and with colleagues in professional development workshops. On this page, I share links to worksheets and activities that may be useful to you if you work with math clubs, Math Circles, or Math Teachers' Circles.



A key question for math circles is about the relationship of the session's topic to the curriculum. In my view, a rule of thumb is that sessions for students should not have too much curricular content, while sessions for teachers need not stray too far from the curriculum.

For students, it would be a mistake to duplicate what is already going on in the classroom. The whole idea of a math club or Math Circle is to give the participants a taste of the variety of math content, and to get away from the status differences that flow from different levels of achievement in school mathematics.

On the other hand, for teachers, a possible goal of a Math Teachers' Circle session can be to gain a deeper, teacher-level understanding of the material they teach, and also to be introduced to activities they may be able to adapt for classroom use.

That said, there are some topics that can work (in different ways) for both audiences, and there are topics whose proximity to curriculum is not obvious. Thus, I will not try to create two separate lists.