PROMYS Math Circle

Welcome

PROMYS Math Circle was launched in 2016 as part of enhanced efforts on behalf of PROMYS to reach out to mathematically talented students in Massachusetts, particularly those from low-income and underserved backgrounds. We asked PROMYS for Teachers (PfT) alumni and other outreach contacts to help us identify students who demonstrated mathematical talent and interest, and who might or might not be ready to participate in a mathematics summer program as rigorous as PROMYS.  

Thanks to a hugely enthusiastic response, we rapidly received 70 student nominations. These students were invited to participate in a mentoring program, called the PROMYS Math Circle (PMC) designed to help them develop the mathematical habits of mind that programs like PROMYS require.

During the 2016-2017 school year, we have been running nine PROMYS Math Circles: 7 in-school math circles and 2 virtual math circles.

In-School PROMYS Math Circles

In-school PROMYS Math Circles have been established in the following schools in high-needs districts: 

• Boston Latin Academy (Dorchester)
• Brighton High School
• City on a Hill Dudley Square (Roxbury)
• Everett High School
• John D. O’Bryant School of Mathematics & Science (Roxbury)
• Lawrence High School
• University Park Campus School (Worcester)

In each of these math circles, PROMYS for Teacher alumni who teach at the schools serve as mentors. We anticipate establishing additional in-school PROMYS Math Circles next year.

Virtual PROMYS Math Circles

Two virtual PROMYS Math Circles serve students from several different schools, including students from Boston Preparatory Charter (Hyde Park), Cristo Rey High School (Dorchester), Framingham High School, and Malden High School. In each of these math circles, mentoring is conducted by video chat and email, sometimes one-on-one and often involving small groups. Two graduate students in mathematics act as mentors. Additional virtual math circles may be established.

What is the PROMYS Math Circle (PMC)?

The goal of PMC is to explore challenging mathematical problems within a stimulating and supportive mathematical community. Under the guidance of mentors (PfT alumni and graduate students in mathematics), PMC students engage in weekly 2-hour exploration-based math circles, working collaboratively on specially-designed problem sets. They are also encouraged to tackle the POW (Problem of the Week). Students are expected to spend 3-6 hours a week on PMC mathematics. 

In addition to engaging these students collaboratively in the creativity and beauty of mathematics, we hope to expand the number of mathematically talented and financially needy students from Massachusetts who apply successfully to PROMYS and other rigorous academic summer programs and thrive at those programs. PMC students who are interested will be encouraged to consider applying to PROMYS or other appropriate summer programs and supported by the mentors through the application process. Students are not guaranteed acceptance to PROMYS or to any other summer program.

Financial aid is available for all U.S. students with financial need who are accepted to PROMYS. Full financial aid covers all tuition, room and board costs. In addition, PROMYS can nominate particularly needy students for an NSF-funded stipend to cover earnings they would otherwise have earned from a summer job.

Five of the 2016-2017 PMC students will participate in PROMYS during the summer of 2017.  

We anticipate that many of the 2016-2017 PMC students will be returning to PMC during the 2017-2018 school year.  We will also be inviting additional nominations for our second PMC cohort. 

Nominations for PROMYS Math Circle

If you would like to nominate a mathematically talented low-income Massachusetts student for mentoring in 2017-2018, please click on this link: Student Nominations. These students should exhibit curiosity about mathematics but do not need to have taken advanced math courses or have perfect grades.

Write to Us

Write to us with feedback and suggestions. If you would like to be actively involved in the program as a mentor or in some other way, please do let us know. 

Resources

Here are some of the resources the PROMYS Math Circle is using. We will be working at PROMYS for Teachers this summer to develop additional interesting math problems as well as strategies for getting more students involved in engaging mathematical activities – designed for the PROMYS Math Circle, but useful more generally. If this interests you, or anyone you know, please do get in touch.

Funding for PROMYS Math Circle

PMC’s pilot year of 2016-2017 was funded thanks to the generosity and farsightedness of a Massachusetts family foundation. This same foundation has now renewed funding for another two years. We hope PROMYS Math Circle will be a long-term initiative which will continue to interact with teachers and their students for the foreseeable future.

PMC students at Lawrence 9th Grade Academy    Professor Glenn Stevens at UPCS (Worcester)
PMC Students at Lawrence 9th Grade Academy (left) and Professor Glenn Stevens at UPCS in Worcester (right)

Selected Quotes from PROMYS Math Circle Mentors

“I ran a PROMYS math circle at my school this year with another teacher. I think this program has a lot of potential to change the relationship that students have with math as well as the relationship you have with those students. Outside the math circle, many students view math as a space where teachers have answers they are keeping secrets and students are trying to find those answers to impress the teacher. In the math circle students begin to view math as a thing in the world that we are all looking at and learning about together. Solving a problem in math circle *feels* to students like a discovery about the world. It changes from answer finding to sense making. This, to me, is what primarily differentiates it from the math team/club at our school.
I definitely hope to continue with the circle next year and I hope you will join!”
Eric Henry, PfT alum and Mentor, John D. O'Bryant School of Mathematics & Science in Roxbury

"The PROMYS Math Circle at UPCS got off to a great start with approximately 12 kids from every grade 9-12. We meet on Fridays after school and the students have really taken ownership of the problem-solving process as a community. They start out working individually on the problem set where we left off, checking in with students sitting near them informally until it seems like a critical mass of them are ready to open up a larger discussion. Then a student or two walks up to the board and a larger discussion takes place with students making and testing conjectures, and vetting ideas. It is wondrous to see in action – these Main South Worcester kids building on each other's ideas and ending each week with rich mathematical discourse.”
Shannon Hammond, PfT alum and Mentor, University Park Campus School in Worcester

"The students really enjoyed this POW! We have Cuisinaire rods, so they were able to start their experiments hands-on which helped a lot with getting everyone engaged. We spent two 45-minute periods working on it and still could have gone on longer." [Note: POW = Problem of the Week]
Kate Harney, PfT alum and Mentor, City on a Hill Dudley Square in Roxbury