The Irish Mathematical Trust
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What is a Maths Circle?
Maths Circles are weekly lunchtime or afterschool activities, run by teachers with our support, which foster an enjoyment of mathematics, while offering students the space to develop their problem solving skills in a friendly relaxed environment. This follows from both

content, designed by our collaborative team of teachers, university students, and academics and chosen to be engaging and stimulating, and

methods, involving groupwork, discovery learning, experimentation.
Any student who is curious about mathematics can participate. The Maths Circles are very interactive and gamebased so tend to be well liked. Maths Circles often use puzzles to teach serious mathematics. Maths Circles are a worldwide phenomenon, and in the US there exists a National Association of Maths Circles including circles for teachers. Following their introduction in Ireland in 2010 by Corkbased IMT members, Maths Circles Ireland are now providing free downloads of lesson plans for primary (5th/6th class) and secondary (1st/2nd year) school students.
How to get started
Setting up Maths Circles in your school is easy once you have the motivation, and the rewards are usually quick to come in the enjoyment of the participants.

Before starting, read through our booklets for primary (5th/6th class) or secondary (1st/2nd year) and choose which lessons to use. There are 8 primary and 18 secondary school lessons, complete with student worksheets and solutions. Each lesson plan can be used for 1 or 2 meetings. You can find even more lesson plans on the Maths Circles Ireland homepage.

Decide on the maximum number of participants you can accommodate. Starting with a small number can take some pressure off and help you get comfortable with the new set up, especially if you have no other helpers. Keep in mind that a few may drop out  this is normal with any extracurricular activities, including sports.

Decide on a meeting time and place, ideally in consultation with your students.

Be sure to advertise to your desired audience. Here is a sample letter you can send to parents.

Before you get started, you may print out the booklet; make the desired number of copies for each worksheet, and keep a copy of the full lessons for yourself.

If you are nervous about running a circle, you may seek support in one of the following ways:

Attend a teachers' workshop. Such workshops are organized by IMT members in Cork, Limerick, Galway, Dublin or Maynooth. Check our calendar in the News&Events section.

Visit the Maths Circles Ireland webpage and ask for help from the Maths Circles team ( ). Depending on your location and schedule, we may be able to find volunteers to help you from among our college students.

Enroll some of the TY students to help you. Some of our centres are offering TY Work Experience for students especially aimed at honing their own teaching skills with a view to helping with Maths Circles.

(Soon to come) visit our FORUM page. We hope that more and more teachers will use this forum to share their experience with maths circles.

Visit another Maths Circle. Contact us and we will put you in contact with a teacher who runs a Maths Circle in your area. You can visit and get a feel for it, or you may even join forces and split the workload.
How to run a Maths Circle
If you know how to teach a maths class, then you are definitely well able to run a maths circle. Some tips to go by:

During a Maths Circle, students may spend a lot more time working independently than in usual classes. Having enough copies of student worksheets at hand can make your life as teacher much easier.

In a maths circle, students often work in teams of 24. You may rearrange the chairs in your room accordingly if you like. If you do so, make sure no child will be having his back completely towards you, as you will want them to pay attention when needed.

Maths Circles thrive on encouraging student participation. Be welcoming to your students' ideas, even when they differ from the solutions you've prepared. You will be amazed at the different approaches to a problem your students may find. Even when some of the students' answers are wrong, they might contain valuable ideas on which a correct solution may be built. It is worth pointing out this fact and encouraging further exploration (at home) as well as pointing out the actual mistake. Learning to try out various ideas, even at the risk of being wrong, is a key aspect of Maths Circles.

Rather than spend most time teaching, you may walk around, discuss on a oneonone basis and monitor the students' progress. As you do so, you may notice one student or another doing something particularly right. Encourage such students to take your place in explaining their ideas on the white/blackboard, and have the class give them a clap at the end. Next time, more students may wish to do the same.

There will be a lot more team work and discussion in a maths circle, so you might allow for a slightly higher level of noise than in a usual class.

There is no rush to cover a certain amount of material in any given hour of Maths Circles. You may adjust the pace to the situation at hand, relax and enjoy.

Keep a journal. The victories and tribulations alike will be a joy to read in later years, and your notes may help you or others wishing to run a maths circle in future years. In written, video or photo album form, this may also come in handy if you decide to run for an Award for Irish Teachers of Mathematics in the near future.

Share your experiences and output with others as you go. You may use our FORUM, the Maths Circles or IMTA facebook pages, etc.

Have you run successful Maths Circles already? Become a mentor for other teachers. Contact us to find our how.
Links
Primary School  8 Lesson Plans
Primary School  Magic Figures
Primary School  Puzzle Stations
1st year Secondary School  18 Lesson Plans
Secondary Schools  Coláiste an Spioraid Naoimh Lesson Plans
Follow up activities
2nd and 3rd year junior cycle students also avail of a followup activity called Junior Maths Enrichment. In turn, this prepares prospective students for the Mathematics Enrichment programmes run across the country, which in turn could lead to participation in national and international mathematical olympiads. If you are a teacher, a parent or a student who is interested in running a Maths Circle/Math type activity for older junior or senior cycle students but are located too far away from any of our centres in Cork, Dublin, Limerick, Galway, Maynooth, then you may avail of some of our extensive enrichment materials. Feel free to contact us.