# Berkeley Math Circle

The Berkeley Math Circle (BMC) is a weekly program for over 500 San Francisco Bay Area elementary, middle and high school students. The weekly sessions are held on Tuesdays evenings at the UC Berkeley campus.

## Parent Q&A

## Parent Reviews

Parents, please Sign in to post a review on this page.we just did the BMC summer week for that grade with our kid, who is also conscious of gender and does not like being in spaces as the only girl. i want to say there was somewhere around 1/3 to 1/2 girls, and 1 of the 3 regular adults was a woman. the materials were also not overtly gendered in any particular way (like jack and jill want to share 10 candies… vs jill is the monster you’re running away from)

Hi- parent of two STEM focused girls aged 16 and 11 here. We never did Firecracker but did do Berkeley Math Circle and there are girls there- certainly comfortable enough for both my kids (who also wouldn't want to be the only one). I'd suggest checking out the Academic Talent Development Program offerings through UCB for the summer as well- my girls both did STEM programs there with good gender ratio. The UCB SWE science program is really fun and the students who help with the program are usually women (this is for when your child gets a few years older). Also, in middle school I would highly recommend the Girls in Engineering Camp- this year I had both a camper and a counselor and they both loved it. I think that often the gender ratio in the programs is good, but the level and comfort of participation might not be as balanced. That's where skilled teachers, confidence, small groups, etc... are helpful. My daughters have done all the above, are not the most vocal participants in class, and are still saying Math is their favorite subject and want to pursue applied math/science, so nothing has turned them away from it.

Berkeley math circle is a wonderful program— many of the presentations are by math grad students. It tends to cover topics like number theory and topology that aren’t part of the school curriculum. Ideally she could attend with a friend, as at least in the past boys were over represented.

My kid is signed up for both, and enjoys RSM of math more, because it is easier. BMC is more conveniently located, and much cheaper. Their math problems are abstract. Their classes are large and mostly online at present, though some return to in person is envisioned for next year. Parental help is required, at least for the younger kids, because their homework problems are hard. Russian school of mathematics tests the kids and can place them at various levels, either online or in person. Their problems are much more concrete than BMC problems, though more abstract than what is taught at local schools. Classes are small. No parental involvement is required, because the homework is a straightforward application of the class lesson. BMC teaches students to think like a mathematician and invent techniques; RSM teaches specific math concepts using specific techniques. RSM is a business with many franchises; BMC is a public service run by sometimes-disorganized math professors.

Berkeley Math Circles!! They're wonderful. While I don't know whether they specifically have experience with autistic or anxious kids, I suspect that your autistic kid would do fine in the company of other kids who adore math, and I suspect he wouldn't be the only one. (Most of us autistic folks do better with folks who share our special interests even if normal social situations are very hard)

You may want to check out the Berkeley Math Circle - https://mathcircle.berkeley.edu/

They have programs for students starting in 1st grade. It diverges from conventional U.S.-style academic math instruction but it does involve classes, which may not be what you're looking for.

I hope you can find ways to encourage and foster his interests!

Our daughter started UC Berkeley Math Circle in 5th grade because she wasn't getting enough challenge in school. It was so fulfilling for her. They definitely work on problems that are way above their grade level but she found that intriguing and it supplied the challenge she was craving. She also did her own math programs on Khan Academy which was fulfilling and gave her more grounded learning for her grade level and the grade level above hers. I also heard that Firecracker Math is a great alternative to UC Berkeley Math Circle.

If your kids are interested in math, consider Berkeley Math Circle, http://mathcircle.berkeley.edu/ The coursework is very challenging and far beyond what is taught at school.

I suggest you look into the Berkeley Math Circle (BMC). This is headed by Zvezdelina Stankova, runs from the second grade through the end of high school (two lower levels, five upper levels), and the classes are held at UC Berkeley. They have a pretty good website (revamped last year) with some available materials (see http://mathcircle.berkeley.edu/), and Zvezda has published at least two books with BMC materials that are relevant. The instructors for the classes are around 75% women, and more than half the students are girls, so it is geared toward your audience of interest. The classes are on Tuesday evenings during the year (they run in parallel), starts up again in September. You can probably reach out directly to Zvezda for more information/guidance.

## Archived Q&A and Reviews

Feb 2016

*Do you know anything about the Berkeley Math Circle for my 7th-grade son. What's it like? Does it really foster a love of mathematics? Is it just for amazing whizzes who eat math for breakfast, or can it be just as appealing for the kid who enjoys math but not the way it's taught in school? I'd like my son to try the 2-week summer session, but only if it can show him how fun and fascinating math can be. Please tell me what you've experienced (or heard) of the Math Circle. I'd appreciate any advice you might have to offer.*

*Figuring Out Summer Camps*

My son has been in the Berkeley Math Circle for several years and attended the summer camp last summer as a 7th grader. BMC is great for kids who are interested in math, self-motivated, and capable of focusing during a 1-2 hour lecture. The summer camp was pretty intense, 1-2 hours of homework every day. However, the kids learned a LOT of math in a short amount of time. Whether or not it is a fit for your son depends on what you are looking for. It is taught more like a college-level math class, so if you are looking for hands-on-math activities and games, this is probably not the right place. This format has been great for my son and has really supplemented the low level of math instruction in his school. BMC Mom

Have you checked out Firecracker? http://firecrackermath.org/mathcamps/ My son hasn't tried their summer camp, but their after-school classes *definitely* foster a love of math and excitement around problem-solving. The groups are small and work together to solve complex problems in an open-ended way, and my son prefers it hugely to the large lecture format of the Berkeley Math Circle (which he attended for several years). I'm just grateful that Firecracker makes math so joyful, exciting, and interesting-- my son comes home each week thinking and talking about what he's learned. And their staff is wonderful. I can't recommend them highly enough. Mom of a math guy

This is our 3rd grader’s second year in the program. To register you need to fill out the waitlist application (there’s a link on their website) and then keep an eye out on your email inbox. If you’re offered a spot, accept immediately-you can drop after your child’s first class with a close to full refund. My kid has enjoyed the in person classes more than the zoom ones.

Our son’s experience with Berkeley Math Circle was mixed. Pros: the elementary program was great— lots of interesting math and engaging instructors. For the high school circles, the math was often very interesting, and the math circle book is wonderful as well. The staff seems dedicated and they’ve kept it affordable. Cons: a few years ago at least, the high school program was run almost like a military boot camp— lots of scolding emails about talking in the hall (none allowed, even in quiet voices), exactly how to write checks to the program (including which words to capitalize or not), etc. Some of the emails were almost humorous in their exactness, but it didn’t make for a welcoming atmosphere. Maybe that’s changed? Also, the classes were lecture-based, with not very much participation asked for, and the program over-enrolled, so some students had to sit on the floor along the wall in a very crowded classroom (not enough chairs and desks). For advanced math students, I highly recommend the advanced classes at Firecracker Math— the classes are small and inquiry-based, with incredible subjects you’ll won’t be exposed to at school, and cooperative problem-solving in small groups— really fantastic. Good luck!

Our experience with the Berkeley Math Circle was not a positive one. My son, who has a deep love for math and is now studying it in college with plans to pursue graduate studies, participated in the program for about a year. However, he found that it drained all the joy out of his passion for math. The program felt overly rigid and unwelcoming, with an almost comical number of rules. I’ve never encountered anything quite like it. I would suggest exploring other programs instead.