FAQ

Answers to the most common questions.

Before You Join

How do I join a math circle?

Applications for our Math Circles open about a month before the start of each quarter—we announce each opening on the Apply page and on our email announce list. High School Circle (only): you are welcome to visit one or two sessions of the circle to see what it's like, introduce yourself and decide if it is for you, and apply (if space is available). The Middle School and Elementary Circles are not able to accept unenrolled visitors.

Am I advanced enough for the Stanford Math Circle?

The Middle School and Elementary Circles do not require knowledge of math beyond grade-level, though many participants in the circle may have some such knowledge. What is required is enthusiasm for mathematical reasoning and a desire to spend time thinking abstractly.

The High School Circle is open to all motivated students in grades 9–12, regardless of background or level. We try to provide problems and materials that are interesting to and suitable for a range of mathematical abilities. If you’re interested in math, you are welcome to come! Exceptional middle school students are also welcome, but may be asked to show evidence of readiness (math contest scores, participation in other math programs or classes) before admission.

My child is in kindergarten, but advanced mathematically. Can they participate in the math circle?

We do restrict participation the elementary math circle to students in first grade and above. This is because of social readiness, not mathematical ability! We do recognize that there are many kindergarten students who are capable of exceptional mathematical reasoning. Similarly, we do not place 1st and 2nd graders to participate in the 3rd/4th grade circles. 


Attending Math Circles

What should I bring?

Please bring a pencil, pen, and lots of paper to each session. Occasionally, it will also be useful to have a calculator, so feel free to bring a calculator if you have one. There are water fountains in the hallways, so you may also bring a water bottle. Other than water bottles with lids, no food or drinks are allowed in the classrooms. 

Can I join the high school math circle now if I’ve already missed multiple sessions?

If space is available, you are welcome to join us at any time during the year. We love to meet new people interested in math! In general, the sessions and topics are independent of each other. Some sessions will be harder and some will be easier, depending on the instructor and the particular topic. (Please note that the Elementary and Middle School Circles have much more  severe space limitations, are not able to accomodate visitors, and draw from a waiting list if space becomes available during the quarter. 

I didn’t quite understand everything at the last session. Should I keep coming anyway?

Absolutely! As many practicing research mathematicians will tell you, it often takes several years to become an experienced problem solver. It’s completely fine (and expected) if you need to see a particular topic or discuss a particular idea several times before it starts to make sense. Keep in mind that the material discussed in our sessions are very advanced and non-traditional. 

What if I’m running late? Should I still try to make the Circle?

Traffic in the vicinity of Stanford and Palo Alto on weekday evenings can be difficult, and we’d rather you come late than not at all—but we still strongly recommend that you come on time. If a student misses the first five or ten minutes of the main topic, it can be hard to jump into what is going on. And late arrivals can be disruptive to other students, too.

Can my sibling or parent attend the session with me?

In the advanced circle only, it may be possible for parents to sit in the back --  not with students, and only if our assigned room has sufficient space. Instructors can’t allow siblings to sit in on sessions, and the elementary and middle school circles limit the number of parents in class to two (arranged in advance, see the instructor’s welcome message for additional details)— our classrooms do not permit more, and we want to keep all students focused and working and free of distractions. 

My parent has a question for the instructor, when can they ask?

Instructors can only speak to parents before or after class, not during. If you have a general question for our staff, please use the Contact form and we will email you back promptly.

How can parents help with the Stanford Math Circle?

Parents can help with various aspects of the circle, from providing refreshments during the circle breaks, to helping with the overall organization or donating to the circle. We are completely open to new ideas, and welcome any suggestions that you may have! The Elementary Math Circles also have room for parents to assist the instructors during class. The instructors will choose these parents.