PROMYS Math Circle


PROMYS Math Circle (PMC) was launched in 2017, as part of enhanced efforts on behalf of PROMYS to reach out to mathematically talented students in Massachusetts, particularly those from low-income backgrounds and underrepresented in STEM. 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. 

Anna and HuyJohn UrschelExpo 2018
PMC students gathered at Boston University for Math Field Day; also shown at the 2018 Math Expo.
John Urschel, retired pro football player and PhD student in mathematics at MIT, was a special guest.

What is PROMYS Math Circle?

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 exploration-based math circles, working collaboratively on specially-designed problem sets. They are also invited to attend special events at Boston University, encouraging PMC students from different circles to do math together. 

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.

Five PMC students participated in PROMYS during the summer of 2019, on full or partial scholarships, including two returning students. 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. During the summer of 2020 (and again in 2021), about a dozen PMC students participated in a special virtual PROMYS Math Circle that ran for six weeks and was free to participants.

In-School PROMYS Math Circles

In-school PROMYS math circles have been established in the following high-needs public schools: 

Boston Latin Academy (Dorchester) • Cambridge Rindge and Latin School
Everett High School • Malden High School • Pioneer Charter School of Science (Everett)
University Park Campus School (Worcester) • Waltham High School

For the most part, alumni of PROMYS for Teachers serve as mentors in the schools where they teach. 

Virtual PROMYS Math Circle

A virtual PROMYS math circle serves students from several different schools. Mentoring is conducted by video chat and email, sometimes one-on-one and often involving small groups. Graduate students in mathematics and PfT alumni act as mentors. Additional virtual math circles may be established.

PMC Summer Program

PROMYS Math Circle adapted to the unusual circumstances of 2020, and ran a full-time, six-week online program for PMC students, which we ran again in 2021. Like the flagship PROMYS summer program, the focus was on students working collaboratively on Number Theory problem sets. In lieu of lecture, this work was supported by weekly "counselor sessions" where the mentors led discussions with the students on topics such as the importance of proofs, making good definitions, and evaluating an argument. 

Student Applications to PMC

Mathematically talented low-income Massachusetts high school students are encouraged to apply for the 2021-2022 PROMYS Math Circle cohort. Teachers may recommend students; however, we ask that each student fill out this form: PMC Application. Students do not need to have taken advanced math courses or have perfect grades, but they should exhibit curiosity about mathematics and demonstrate a desire to participate in PMC. 

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, let us know. 


Here are some of the resources the PROMYS Math Circle is using. 

Funding for PROMYS Math Circle

PMC’s pilot year was funded thanks to the generosity of the Linde Family Foundation. This same Massachusetts-based foundation has now renewed funding for another two years. PMC is the recipient of a Mathematical Association of America Tensor Women and Mathematics Program grant to support additional activities for girls. 

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. Here are 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

“My girls had so much fun at the Girls' Angle Math Collaboration! They absolutely loved the challenge. Thank you for providing my girls with these amazing experiences and math sessions!” 
Linda Nguyen, PfT alum and Mentor, Boston Latin Academy in Dorchester

PMC students attending PROMYS 2019 with Professor Margy Baruch, Dr. Henry Cohn, Professor Glenn Stevens, PROMYS Executive Director Dr. Li-Mei Lim, Alex Rodriguez (PROMYS Counselor), Nariel Monteiro (PMC Mentor), Tanya Finkelstein (PMC Mentor).