A Math Circle Journey: Follow the Story of Online Math Circles

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“My brother wants to talk to you after class is over.”

“Okay, that would be fine, “ I said. “What’s up Tanner?” I asked as he bumped his sister out of the webcam view.

With a huge grin on his face he said, “I just figured out the formula for 963×2048 in Intersection math!”

I was surprised and thrilled. We’d been working on this problem for 3 weeks of our online math circle. We meet weekly as a group of scholars ages 12-18 and myself, and we struggle together (sometime a lot!) to understand and solve  James Tanton’s amazing math challenges.

This particular problem had been annoying all of us for weeks. We could almost taste the formula! We knew we were close, but we were stumped. With one hint from James Tanton himself and some help from Maria Droujkova, I was set to discover the pattern once and for all.

Alas, as a mom to seven kids, I haven’t had as much time as my students. My student had seen a connection from an earlier problem in the chapter and devised a formula that seems to be working!

This experience in my online class or math circle has been deeply satisfying. We have come together as a group of equally motivated learners. My students know I don’t have the answers, so they have quit relying solely on me for solutions. We are struggling and stretching and growing. Our math minds are growing. I see it in my students and myself in those nearly indiscernible ways.

Hi, I’m Shelley Nash and a year ago, I would never have expected to be sharing this kind of math learning with my students and children. I was introduced to natural math about a year ago and began working with Maria Drjoukova on the course Inspired by Calculus. I had many insights and inspirations about myself from that experience. (You can read about them here.)

I really gained a strong desire to help children feel successful at math. It seems that culturally we give a lot of status to those that are “good at” math In order to help my kids and others feel like they could make their own math and find their own interests and strengths in this diverse field, I started doing math circle work online.

Doing hands on, conceptual math online is challenging and rewarding! I still get to see many “aha” moments. I get to hear my students tell me that they are making their own math now. It can be frustrating too because I can’t help with manipulatives; they can turn off their webcam; or they can mute me!

So in an effort to improve as a math circle leader, to learn from other leaders, to encourage other leaders, and to inspire online math circles I’ll be sharing my activities with you. I’ll be honest about what worked and what didn’t, and whether it worked online or only in a physical circle.

Here are my first two posts: Love of Learning Math Circle (ages 8-11), and Middle School Math Circle (ages 12-14). Please comment on the activities, share similar activities or ideas for improvement! I’d love to hear from you.

So how did you get started with math circles? Have you ever led one online?

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