Answers to the most common questions.

Before You Join

How do I join a math circle?

Applications for our Math Circles open about two month before the start of each quarter—we announce each opening on the Apply page and to those registered for our mailing list.

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 apply! 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 permit students in grades 1 or 2 to participate in the 3–4 grade circles.

Can I join Math Circles if I do not live in the San Francisco Bay Area or Silicon Valley?

Stanford Math Circle is designed for students who live in the San Francisco Bay Area or Silicon Valley. For students who are in 8th grade or higher who reside outside of this area, we recommend that you apply for one of our summer residential programs. To learn more, visit http://spcs.stanford.edu.

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 you send me the course syllabus before the start of the program?

We are unable to give out the syllabus before the first class session as it is the intellectual property of the instructors. It will be distributed during the first class meeting.

Can I have more information about my instructor?

Please visit our instructors page for more information: http://mathcircle.stanford.edu/about/instructors-staff

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. Please note our office closes at 5pm and they will not recieve your messages until the next morning.

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

If you are interested in joining the Advanced Math Circle please email us or Director Ted Alper to see if there is space available in the course. 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.

I do not feel like this is a good fit for my child. Am I able to obtain a refund?

To withdraw the student the parent must notify Stanford Pre-Collegiate Summer Institutes staff in writing via email, to precollegiate@stanford.edu. Refunds will not be considered until a formal (written or email) request is received. Each refund request will be reviewed on a case by case basis.

What if I feel more qualified for a higher course placement as my math skills are at a more advanced level than others in my grade?

After you have been admitted to the program, please reach out to precollegiate@stanford.edu. These requests will be reviewed on a case by case basis based on availability and scheduling.

Can I be in the same class with my sibling and/or have a class on the same day and time as my sibling?

After you and your sibling have both been admitted to the program, please reach out to precollegiate@stanford.edu. These requests will be reviewed on a case by case basis based on availability and scheduling.

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 regarding the program, please email precollegiate@stanford.edu.

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.