Math Enrichment for Young Math-Lovers

Parent Q&A

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  • Hi there! Mom of a first grader who loves math and science. She is very conscious of gender in various spaces. I'm aware of camps and programs like Firecracker Math and Berkeley Math Circle but I am seeking feedback on: 

    - How gendered do these spaces feel? If she attends these programs, would she be the only girl? 

    - Are there any programs specifically for girls that foster a love of math and science and extend beyond typical school programs? 

    Thank you!

    My girls (now 23 & 26) loved science largely from to early exposure at Lawrence Hall of Science classes and camps, ATDP (Academic Talent and Development Program), and Expanding Your Hotizons (several local colleges and universities have EYH programs including Cal,

    For your second question, check out Scientific Adventures for Girls — my friend (UC Berkeley mechanical engineer) has volunteered with them for a few years now and she really enjoys teaching the girls there.

    Congrats on your curious girl! I strongly recommend checking out Scientific Adventures for Girls (, which is based in Berkeley. I don't know their exact set up right now in terms of when/where they operate, but when our now 16-year old daughter was at Peralta Elementary School in Oakland, SAFG did an after school program one day a week that she attended and loved. They are super creative, engaging, and committed to fostering love of STEM subjects in girls specifically. Good luck!

    Lawrence Hall of Science used to have a "Math For Girls" class -- my daughter attended and liked it. I also taught the class (a few years before that) -- it was one of my favorite classes to teach. In a "girls-only" program, girls get to take on all the roles. One alternative, if you can't find a class, is ordering the math for girls teaching guide, and get together a few of your daughter's friends for "math playdates." Another mother (an engineer) and I used to organize a math night at our daughters' school -- where we had a lot of girl-friendly construction activities, as well as puzzles and number activities. (Gummy bear polyhedra, and bubble geometry were very popular.) So, if you feel confident of your mathematics, one thought would be to find another mother or two to organize with. If you organize something, you can email me for activity ideas.

    This is just a bit more -- the math/science programs at ATDP always had a good representation of girls in the classes.

    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.  

    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)

    Oh my goodness, you all are the best, thank you!!

  • Our 5yo fell in love with math a couple of years ago and has gotten quite far along on it -- his familiarity waxes and wanes with his enthusiasm, but he knows multiplication and division, understands concepts like prime numbers and pi, and has been working on simple algebra and multiplying fractions when he feels like it. (This is mostly thanks to the show Numberblocks.) He's starting kindergarten in the fall at Sankofa, and it doesn't sound like the school (or any 'under-resourced' school in OUSD) has a lot of options for very young kids to pursue math much beyond what's being taught to the whole class. I've heard that kids are encouraged to use the Chromebooks to do lessons at their own pace, but it's unclear to me how this works in practice. He's also reading well already, for what it's worth. 

    Does anyone have advice about how to keep him feeling engaged and interested in school? It sounds like the kindergarten curriculum will concentrate on social emotional learning and generally how to live in a classroom with other kids for several hours a day, rather than on heavy academics, which sounds great and like exactly what he needs. My concern is really about the grades to come; I'd prefer for him not to internalize the idea that school is boring or too easy and then get surprised down the road.

    We'd really like to stick with our neighborhood public school, and to be with kids his own age and maturity level than potentially skip a grade, which is why I thought of some sort of outside age-appropriate tutor or activities. He's gotten this far without any real academic focus in his preschool, just talking to us at home and doing tablet games, and obviously it's not the end of the world if a five-year-old forgets some higher math and has to relearn it later. But I'd like to know what's out there or how other folks have dealt with similar situations -- of course we'd love to give him more resources if it's possible. Thanks so much!

    Beast Academy is a wonderful resource for a young mathy kid that can read and stay focused. It allows kids to move forward at their own pace, and to be taught through cartoons. The online version is even better in my opinion than the paper version, as the kids can read the cartoons, and watch instructional videos, and get instant feedback on their answers (rather than completing paper worksheets). It costs less than $100. Berkeley Math Circle is also great for abstract concepts, but parent commitment is required (and it typically starts in 1st grade, not K). I have heard great things about the Sankofa principal from multiple sources. And there are parent communities for highly gifted kids that have lots of tips, as it might not be an easy journey even with a particularly flexible public school. 

    Our kid has always been advanced in math. In younger grades, we supplemented with prodigy math games, Khan Academy, and weekly math tutors. Now that our child is an older elementary student, we participate in the Berkeley Math Circle I think this program starts with 1st graders but we didn't join until this year. Ultimately, after 3 years of public school, we did end up moving to a private school, because school became boring and kid was checked out and then there is the pandemic. Kid started to refuse to go to school. It became too difficult for the child to grin and bear the hours at school so that the child could have fun learning with the tutors and online platforms after school which left no time for non-academic fun and extracurricular activities. I know there are many bright and advanced kids who thrive in public schools. I hope your child enjoys a bit of supplementation and enrichment and continue to enjoy your local school. 

    Our child attended classes through Lawrence Hall of Science, ATDP, and math circles. (Also art at MOCHA, and drama through Berkeley Rep and Stagedoor, and some writing enrichment.) It was a good balance with what was offered in the public school classroom. We also played math games (books and toys from the Exploratorium, and LHS.) I don't know about Sankofa, but I know in our child's BUSD school, there were other gifted children in the classroom.

    Once you're at Sankofa, you should connect with Mr. Wilson, who teaches 4th and 5th grade and leads the math curriculum for the school. Of course the school is limited in how far it can stretch outside the curriculum, as there's just one teacher per classroom, but I'll bet he'll have great feedback on how to nurture your son's love of math and stay appropriately engaged in his classroom. See you there next year!

  • Hi friends. Need your collective knowledge on this one. My daughter, age 9 (3rd grade), is very interested in math and would like to learn more challenging math concepts. My concern is that, right now, she really enjoys math and I want to her to remain curious and excited about it. But I also know she's looking for more of a challenge. Knowing this, should I look into Berkeley Math Circle or Russian School of Mathematics? Or is there some other school, tutor or recommendation you'd propose? I'm more interested in her being excited about math and knowing less, then knowing more but it killing her interest in it. Thanks all!

    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.

    Try beast academy books and in a few years look out for Proof School for middle school. 

    Have you also looked into Firecracker math? We had very good experience with their program. Small groups, great teaching with lots of discussion and input from the students, making it into a unique group learning experience. Specifically, my son (in 6th grade at that time) enjoyed the upper division classes taught by Dr. Eli Lebow. These classes were transformative and opened up his eyes to a world of math and math concepts not taught in schools. There was no homework, so no stress and all fun. Later, my son joined BMC which is great in many different ways, but my son still talks about those Firecracker math classes as the best learning experience ever.

    I have had two kids do RSM. One joined mid-year in elementary school and initially found it very stressful, but after that stuck with it for 4 years. After 8th grade they decided to do AOPS on their own over the summer, and just completed calculus at Laney as a freshman in high school (they felt too busy for RSM this year). My middle schooler wanted a break from RSM this year as well, but now wants to do it again next year because they realize how much more math instruction they got.
    I wouldn’t say either loves math, but they do enjoy being good at it. They both felt like RSM challenged them and made them a lot better at solving problems than they would otherwise have been.

    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. 

    Firecracker Math is a group with afterschool classes that I've heard is great.  We didn't use it because our kid didn't turn out to want to do math as

    much but maybe you would like it?

  • Resources for autistic math genius (age 6)

    (4 replies)

    My 6 year old was recently diagnosed with anxiety and autism spectrum disorder (aspbergers). He is very rigid and inflexible, and extremely nervous in new situations. He also has a superior IQ and is a math genius. He’s 2 months into 1st grade at a public OUSD school (kindergarten was almost all online) and at a 5th-6th grade level in math, and is quite obsessed with it. 

    I’m seeking math resources and activities, especially if someone has experience with autistic/anxious kids. Online doesn’t really work for us, so I’m hoping for in person activities, at least when he’s hopefully vaccinated in the next couple of months. I’d prefer Berkeley/Oakland area but can travel a bit. 

    thank you

    Check out Firecracker Math. They are a wonderful place for math enrichment. Our child who is advanced in math has enjoyed camps and instructions there. 

    I just responded to a similar question from a parent of a preschooler.  I am a mom and a school psychologist.  If your son hasn't already had ABA therapy, you might ask his medical provider about this.  He might also be a good candidate for a social skills group.  

    When kids are rigid and inflexible it can be very helpful to prepare them for what is likely to be coming their way.  If there is a field trip, for instance, you might talk with him ahead of time about what to expect.  Is a friend coming over?  What are the social expectations?  Social stories are another way to prepare him.  You can write your own or find them online.  

    Almost all kids do best with structure and routine.  This especially applies to kids on the spectrum.  Surprises are not their thing.  

    Most teachers are great at accommodating a wide range of behaviors and learning styles.  They are probably not going to be able to teach to his level, however.  Maybe that's okay. Developing his social skills and learning to manage his anxiety may be the most important things for right now. 

    Anxiety, unfortunately, is very common these days.  As much as you can, be a calm, reassuring presence for your son.  Trust his ability to manage some stressful situations, and let him know that you trust do so.  Be there for him, but be careful not to reinforce his anxiety by always stepping in to rescue him.


    I have a math PhD and I have been investigating math programs for my 6th year old. Here is the Berkeley math circle. They have an elementary program.

    Also, a friend recommended these books:

    For  middle school you may want to consider the proof school

    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)

  • My 1st grade kid is bored. He is asking us about negative numbers, powers of ten, fractions, division, etc. I love his curiosity and want to foster it in a way that doesn’t feel academic. Any resources out there for mathematically curious kids? Ideally compelling videos that I can park him in front of. 

    Our child is advanced in math as well. We have a tutor who does private math instruction online twice a week. The tutor cost generally ranges from $40 - $90 / hour depending on qualifications and experience. In addition, we let our child play Prodigy Math game. You can also check out Firecracker Math locally. We've done summer camps there pre-pandemic and kids had a lot of fun. 

    You may want to check out the Berkeley Math Circle -

    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!

    My children use Beast Academy online as enrichment and they like it.  It is a fun program and mixes learning with logic games and problems.   I am also selective about what workbooks I buy for them (looking for ones focusing on logic, reasoning, word problems, etc.)  Singapore Math Challenge series is great.  They are also doing Russian School of Math after school.  For a mathematically advanced kids, most schools will not be able to provide what they need, so after school enrichment activities and online programs are the only way to keep them learning and interested in math. 

    That's a good problem to have!  Math Kangaroo is a competition that now has a printed collection of challenges for kids in Grades 1 and 2.  I haven't seen it but I assume it is something that can be done mostly independently.  There is also the game Prime Climb.  For fun events targeting various ages, check  Sign him up for the Berkeley Math Circle Elementary I waitlist!

    My math-loving kids liked PBS Kids shows like Cyberchase. Looks like they now have another math-oriented show called The Odd Squad. has games based on the shows. Also check out Kahn Academy ( 

    Hi, we use Beast Academy by Art of Problem Solving. They’re pretty affordable - around $100 - $120 per year and it’s a self guided curriculum for gifted learners. It starts from Grade 2 but seems like your child can give it a try. They have some free lessons to try before buying. It’s got videos, logical puzzles etc and is one of the best math curriculums out there! We love it. Good luck on your search. 

    We have a math-y kid, too, and have had a lot of fun and learning through Beast Academy online. It’s a series of humorous graphic novels (and accompanying practice books) about young monsters (the “beasts”) who are learning math concepts. The content can be quite challenging; it’s the opposite of a Kumon-type of book, and gives kids an understanding of the “why” behind math concepts. For younger kids who might not be able to read the guidebooks yet, I’d recommend the online version, which includes videos as well as practice games and puzzles that they can do on a computer or tablet. The series is published by a company called The Art of Problem Solving, which also offers online live math enrichment classes. We haven’t done those, but would like to give them a try down the road.

    I recommend Richard Fischer's book, "Higher Math in the Lower Grades". Will need some supervision, but these problems are great. Developed with two fields medalists whose kids Richard taught (I was one of the kids... great stuff).

    Khan Academy is what my mathematically gifted daughter would love to spend time with. It’s free!

    Seconding Berkeley Math Circle in general and, once your 1st grader is a little older, BMC's "MTRW." If you're just looking for something fun-but-at-least-somewhat-real, check out the books in the Life of Fred series. You can get them pretty reasonably on eBay. 

    I wanted to add another recommendation for Beast Academy. They have three options - you can just buy the workbooks (guides, workbooks, and puzzle book), do the online curriculum (has interactive activities) or sign up for their virtual class (a live teacher with a dozen or so students). When you do the last option, you get access to the online curriculum as soon as you sign up (so you could use it and check out if you want to keep it - you can cancel your class until after the second class meeting). We ordered the books and signed up for Math 2c/d for our 2nd grader. She has been doing an in-person pod all year, so this is her only virtual instruction, and she likes it. But we mainly use it to keep her motivated/on track. The real learning comes one-on-one when she does the homework ahead of each class (which isn't pen and paper, but math problems presented in a fun way on-line). We did the workbooks and math problems without the class before it started, and it was less motivating.

    All semester last fall, we also benefited from a pedagogically intuitive, kind, smart, amazing math tutor who worked with our daughter one-on-one. He was a freshman at Brown, at home for the semester because it was virtual because of Covid. He charged $20 an hour and came to our house before my daughter's pod school and on days they had off. Since it was such a great price, we had him tutor her like ten hours a week, sometimes more. He built in a lot of breaks (like x number of problems, then a few minutes for legos or dolls), knows what second graders are supposed to be learning (from on-line research), but also talked with his former high school teachers and math olympiad friends about strategies for tutoring. But he's just got a strong sense of how to get others to develop their own math sense, to think flexibly about math. That is a great thing about Beast Academy, too. It's the opposite of just learning to add, subtract, multiply, etc. It forces you to learn different strategies (regrouping, rounding, etc) to get to an answer, so you understand more about the relationships/what's going on with the numbers you're using. Sadly for us and hooray for him, he went back to campus this Spring, so now we're just supplementing the pod with Beast Academy and our own one-on-one work.

    I should add that in the interval between the 19 year old math tutor and the Beast Academy class, we did math with our kid and she often got SUPER frustrated, screamed, cried, threw things, hyperventilated, etc. It was the opposite of what we want, which is just for her to like it, be competent at it, and feel confident with it. We realized we weren't building in breaks and were pushing her past the point where she was into it. When problems were easy, it was fine. When anything was hard and we actually had to teach, things went berserk. We did a reset, really clueing in to the signals she gave out, and basically just became Ghandi in terms of our parental patience. The second we lost our capacity to be less than super patient or things got counterproductive, we would stop. Better to stop when you're ahead and finish with good feelings about the subject. Now we've had positive sessions pretty much every time. 

    Finally, a friend is also started her first grade daughter (they have different age levels) on Golden Key Russian virtual math classes, which is more about math logic/puzzles.

  • My son is in public school and I am constantly looking for math books, activities, etc. to help with math enrichment since I don't feel that his school is doing enough.  I have just recently learned about Beast Academy but saw that is mostly used by homeschoolers and the books are very expensive (over $100 for books per grade level).  I'm ok paying the money if it is worth it, but was hoping to get some advice from other parents of elementary aged kids advanced in math who go to public school and have after school activities who tried the program and whether it was possible to do as an after school add on at home or if it was too much and not a good fit.  Thanks. 


    I’m a parent of a second grader in Oakland Unified and a Credentialed Teacher.  I’ve never used Beast Academy but that sounds too expensive.  I have used and suggest several online math enrichment programs.  Try Brainzy interactive games and Kahn Academy or Mathletics.  I’ve them all with students and for my own son. 

    I also have a child advanced in math. I like Beast Academy a lot because it teaches math in ways that are a bit different than what the kids find in school. With that said, there is not a ton of variety in each book (we only bought one) and it is hard to know exactly which book to start with. In the end we didn't pursue it past the first book I bought. My daughter wasn't super interested in the couple concepts taught in the book and since we were doing it as an extra, I wanted to let her follow her interests. In that regard, it works better as a curriculum instead of as an activity book. We found better luck with some Singapore math books that just had lots of interesting problems but were less of a curriculum. I wish you luck. Finding good, engaging math resources for kids that enjoy math and do well in it is hard. 

    We are a public school family with a kid who test about 3-4 grade levels above in math, and we've been using Beast Academy for the past year.  To us, it's been worth the investment.  I like how it goes deeper on the foundational topics and loops back repeatedly with increasingly harder challenges on the same topics, rather than just race ahead to new topics.  I also think the online component is worth the expense if you can manage it, because it provides another way to really deepen the understanding of the fundamentals.  A few caveats: in our case, it really works best when parent and kid work through at least the guidebooks together, if not the exercise books as well.  So you can't just expect kids to do this independently, it really takes an investment of your time as well.  Second, the online program is web-based rather than app-based so you have to be comfortable allowing your kid access to an internet browser. 

    We started using Beast Academy when my daughter was in 4th grade in public school and I felt like she needed some extra math. It made a huge difference - she went from being competent but somewhat unsure about math to being confident and advanced. Your son will definitely be challenged by the material. It's a great program by the same people who do Art of Problem Solving for older students. They also have an online program, but I prefer the books, having used both, because the books show example problems on the same pages as the actual problems. It's also easier to skip around and to see all the material in the books. We are finished with the guides for grades 4 and 5, and you are welcome to have them if you contact me directly. 

    We used Beast Academy when we were homeschooling and really liked it. i like the visual way that they work with problems and the illustrations are great. If you can get it, I think it's worth trying. I agree that it is probably better as a curriculum than as an activity book, but that being said, you could also take the time to look through it and pick out the pages that reinforce what your daughter needs to learn and that are also entertaining. That would take some time on your part but could be worth it. Good luck!

  • Math enrichment for almost 6 year old

    (7 replies)

    We live in Orinda and just moved from NY 3 weeks back. Our almost 6 year old son started with 1st grade at a public school here. Even though I have heard great things about school overall, the curriculum shared during back to school night, honestly seemed very “easy” for him, especially for Math. He is doing 3+5 right now and he can already do 4 digit dynamic additions, multiplications and divisions.

    He was in a Montessori before but even there the teachers thought he was advanced. 

    Would love to hear ideas and suggestions on how we can continue his learning.

    Separately, also would love to know if there are curriculums and gifted schools in east bay for younger kids. 

    Thank you.

    Our first grader is advanced in math as well. A year ago when our kid was your kids age, our kid was doing what your kid was doing. We're in OUSD and the school curriculum falls very short and we've been told by the teacher that the school can't do much for the kid. We send our kid to Firecracker Math camps during school breaks and after school class. They do fun math games. We also supplement at home by doing fun everyday math games while we cook, eat, clean, play shopping games, etc. We ask the kid to measure ingredients (Ex. We need a half cup of flour but I only have 1/4 cups. Can you help? We have only 3 carrots but we are 5 people. What should we do? How many plates and cups are on the table? How many should we each grab to clear the table that will be fair for us all?)

    1) Bay Area Math Circle -- there's one that meets at UC. There are also classes at Lawrence Hall of Science

    2) Visit Lawrence Hall of Science or Chabot Observatory. LHS has more math activities usually. Then check out the bookstore for puzzle books. Also games like Equate, Set, Apples to Apples, connect 4, Sudoku, KenKen.

    3) Ideally what a strong math student needs is enrichment, not necessarily doing computation practice. Advanced high school and college mathematics is closer to solving puzzles and justifying what you are doing (proofs) than to computation.

    4) – a British site with many problem solving activities – start with the ones for primary students.

    CTY, through Johns Hopkins. They offer online classes for advanced learners.  we were very happy with our son's class last year. Too much homework to do another one right now,  unfortunately.  I'd also recommend chess through Berkeley Chess School,  or working ahead in Khan Academy. My son, now in 6th, has scored in the 98th percentile on the SBAC in math the last three years and also says he's bored with math in class, but honestly he could always complete his assignments more thoughtfully or thoroughly so we keep on him to not "check out" in class while supplementing outside of class.

    Another resource to recommend: the Beast Academy workbooks from Art of Problem Solving.  Our son is in an OUSD school that we love but they just can't differentiate math enough to keep him challenged.  We spend about 30 minutes a day with him working through the Beast Academy books and have found it to be an excellent resource for not just racing him ahead but helping him develop very solid and flexible foundational skills in math.  The graphic novel-style format also keeps him engaged and builds his reading skills.

    I am not sure if a private school is an option for you, but I can recommend the Academy in Berkeley. It is a small K-8 school with small class sizes (at most 12 kids per class in elementary school), and they teach about one grade level higher than other schools. Our son is now in first grade, and both he and we love the school very much. Besides a very strong and rigorous academic training, the school is also paying a lot of attention to social development and interactions between the grades. I have nothing but great things to say about the academy.

    Welcome to the Bay Area! I also started looking for math enrichment when my son was in first grade. The main options I found were Berkeley Math Circle, Firecracker Math, and the Russian School of Mathematics. We ended up going with RSM, due mainly to schedule and availability, but it has been fabulous. The closest location to you would be Dublin, but starting in 4th grade there is also an online class option. The best thing about it is that there are 3 levels per grade (accelerated, advanced, and honors), and all 3 are more advanced that what you will get in school. Most kids start in the accelerated level, but they will give a placement test and also make mid-year adjustments as needed. If the honors level is still not a challenge, they will move a kid to the next grade. They follow a curriculum, and introduce abstract thinking (variables) by second grade. You might also check out Beast Academy Online if getting out to Dublin sounds like too much or you want a less expensive option. There is plenty of challenge to be had in Beast Academy, and their programs for older kids, through Art of Problem Solving, are also really great. Good luck!

    I also have a son who is also advanced in math. He currently attends the Academy in Berkeley, which teachers 1 year ahead.

    Here are some of the math activities he has enjoyed:

    1) On-line classes at John Hopkins CTY

    2) Berkeley Math Circle

    3) Epsilon Camp - summer camp 

    4) Arthur T. Benjamin videos

    5) Math competitions like Math Kangaroo

    6) The Number Devil: A mathematical adventure  (chapter book)

    7) Hard Math for Elementary School by Glenn Ellison (sold on Amazon)

    8) Penrose, The Mathematical Cat books

    9) Anno's Mysterious Multiplying Jar (picture book)

    10) Khan Academy

    If you son still loves math when he's older, check out Proof School 

  • Seeking advice from educators and/or parents. My fifth grader is in a bare-bones public school; while his teachers have been very nice and understanding of his quirks and strengths, due to the range of abilities in the classroom they of course aren't able to provide him differentiated instruction. He's always been a strong reader (tested at 12th grade last year in 4th grade), but we are coming to realize maybe math is more the thing he can go deeper/further in. He scored well on the 3rd grade SBAC, and on the 4th grade SBAC he scored 2623 in math which I think is very close to the max 4th grade score in CA. Full credit to the teachers for doing a great job preparing the kids! But I'm wondering how much my son brought to the table - is that a good score, or a really good score? Does it indicate anything beyond, he's a good test taker and the teachers did a good job teaching to the test? Can anyone with more depth on the SBAC/CAASPP provide some perspective on if we as parents should be putting more time and energy into math enrichment, and if so what that would look like for a 10 year old? I have looked at the Berkeley Math Circle website, and honestly it looks like a quantum leap from his 5th grade textbook - I have no idea if he could handle it. He does say he is bored with math at school, and he did greatly enjoy the ATDP math class he took this past summer - honestly he seemed intellectually challenged for the first time. Our school (and district) doesn't have a Math Olympiad, which from what little I know, I do think would be up his alley. He also enjoys his weekly afterschool chess class but is not particularly good at chess. :) An online class through CTY is an option; he's just finishing one in literature but the thing he liked most was the online discussion board and I don't think the math classes have that. Advice welcome. Thanks!


    Start with, Jo Boaler's website.  Her free online class is for reluctant math learners so you may want to go straight to resources.  The website has all sorts of fun, open-ended activities.

    In addition, try visiting MSRI, Math-Science Research Institute, above Lawrence Hall of Science on Gauss Way and take a look around their library for middle school math resources.

    How about an after-school class at Lawrence Hall of Science or Quantum Camp in downtown Berkeley?  And be sure to visit the Exploratorium and Autodesk Gallery(free.)

    Finally, look into resources from the Mini Maker Faire that just took place at Park Day School in October. Maker activities/robotics is often a good activity for math-oriented students.

    Happy to exchange additional ideas if you are interested.  There are some free/low cost resources in the area and online.  As well, there are specialists who can support enrichment.

    Belinda Lesser, mom and math education enthusiast

    Maybe Lawrence Hall of Science or Kahn Academy online. 

    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.


    I don't know about SBAC, but I do have experience with gifted math students. I would recommend that you sign him up for Berkeley Math Circle. He will be fine in the class. The material is supposed to be advanced. Also, I would request that his school allow him to do a CTY math class during math time, if they are not able to accommodate his math level. Many school districts will pay for the class if they are unable to accommodate him. Also, has he had an IQ test?  If your standardized tests are not enough, this will help you request accommodations from the district. (I few weeks ago, I saw a post that UC Berkeley was offering reduced cost IQ testing).

    Other suggestions: 

    BOOKS: Developing Math Talent by Susan Assouline, PhD

    Hard Math For Elementary School (I believe there is also a Middle School book)

    Martin Gardner's Books (My son loved Dr. Matrix, but the puzzle books are also good)

    The "Murderous Maths' To the Power of Ten by Kjartan Poskitt are very fun.

    In addition to the regular math classes at CTY, there is an on-line cryptography class that is fun.

    My son loved watching 'numberphile' videos on-line.

    It sounds like your son might be PG. If you have his IQ tested, check into the Davidson Young Scholar program.

    Also check out Although you might not be interested in the school, if you go to their website and go to the 'community' page and scroll all the way down to resources, they have math book and competition recommendations. 

    Hope this helps!

    I forgot to add:

    Title: Julia Robinson Mathematics Festival

    Organized by: Julia Robinson Mathematics Festival and American Institute of Mathematics

    Date: Saturday, November 10, 2018

    Time: 9:30AM- 12:00PM

    Where: UC Berkeley

               International House

               2299 Piedmont Ave

               Berkeley, CA

    Who: Intended for Students in 6th-10th grade, but grade level is flexible

    Cost: Free

    Register: register at

    Highly recommend Quantum Camp if you can get him out of school once/week (or do the summer program or homeschool). Firecracker math was also helpful as an afterschool supplement. We had little success obtaining differentiation or challenge in Berkeley. The expectation is to seek that outside of school.

    I want to strongly recommend the Russian School of Mathematics. My kids were also not challenged in school, and they weren't particularly motivated to do Khan Academy. They started, like most kids, in the lowest level RSM offers for their grade, and moved up the following year. RSM offers 3 levels per grade and does a placement test to make sure that each kid will be challenged but able to succeed. After starting RSM in 4th grade, my kids are doing algebra in 6th grade. RSM offers online classes if you don't live close to any of their Bay Area locations. Good luck!

    Try using an online program like IXL. Both of my kids have enjoyed it a lot.

  • Anyone has recommendations for games, activities, books, etc. that I can use for enrichment math and logic (or general STEM) at home for my son and a couple of his friends?  The boys are all first graders and advanced in math, so we are looking for something that is both challenging and interesting.  Cost is not an issue as I'm ok buying the resources (and other parents are ok with contributing), but I would like something that is hands on and engaging (so not just workbooks). I used to lead an after school math club type activity in my son's school using school's provided resources in the fall but have had a difficult time with behavior issues and my son did not like it after a while since I had a lot of kids join the club who had difficulties with math and I had to step back and explain a lot so there was less time for the challenging stuff (I'm not a teacher, I just love math, and honestly was not able to handle well the differences in kids' math abilities).  I am not going to continue leading the math club next semester as I only have one afternoon free a week and I want to use it for quality time with my kid that he would enjoy.  So instead I told my son I would do something for him at home with a few of his friends from his class (the other parents already agreed) who love math, which would give me complete autonomy over the program and with less kids and all of them at roughly the same level I can actually give my son the experience I was hoping for.  So now I'm spending Dec looking for ideas of the right resources to buy to prepare for it.  I know there is a home schooling community here and hope someone will have some recommendations. 

    I strongly recommend you look up Art of Problem Solving. They have excellent programs and books for mathy kids. We have been using AoPS for years in our homeschooling. In the past years, they have developed books for younger kids, called Beast Academy. (I just looked it up and see it has its own website now.)

    Though I have no experience with it, I know others have appreciated Singapore Math. Also, you might look up the site for the Mathematical Association of America – they have a good selection of books you might use. And just in case this is useful for later, you might look into the Berkeley Math Circle. Good luck!

    Kids love the game "rush hour junior". I guess there must be a regular "rush hour" that you could get too. Also tangram puzzles - the harder the better. Perplexors from MindWare are just workbooks, but they are logic puzzles which are so much fun that they become totally addicting. First graders might be a little young for them, but if they can read, you could try the easiest level. You could also go on teachers pay teachers and search for free activities. Just recently I have downloaded 3 games for my 2nd/3rd grade classroom from that site that advanced first graders could probably play: boo bump, array capture, and something like multiplication dot game. Again, not building stuff, but they are engaging and involve math and strategy. Good luck!

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Summer 5th grade math tutor

July 2014

I'm looking for a summer math tutor for my soon to be fifth-grade daughter. She absolutely loves math and is asking to do more over the summer. Ironically I think she is behind in grade level because her school has an alternative math program which is not up to the level of the local public schools. Ideally I am looking for someone who can come to our house one or perhaps two days per week in Berkeley. Thank you in advance. Mom of that Math loving daughter.

I just wanted to recommend It is a great math site, very reasonable too. We do it twice a day over the summer. We're going into fifth as well, so right now we are reviewing the fourth grade curriculum. It has helped us enormously with math competence and confidence. Not a tutor, I know. But if she wants more, IXL is the spot! Julie

Sara Hanes is a fantastic math tutor, and I recommend her most highly. She is trained in Making Math Real Techniques, and makes learning math FUN. My daughter, who just graduated from high school with an A in math, thanks to Sara's support, began tutoring with Sara in fourth grade. It made all the difference! She's in North Oakland, near the Caldecott Tunnel. sarahanes@AT / 510-549-9349 Mom of formerly math-challenged student

Math Camp for Rising 1st Grader

March 2014

My 5-year old son really wants to go to a math camp this summer. He is pretty good at math, probably a couple years ahead, and likes it. I have no idea why he is so fixated on math camp, but he is. The camps we've contacted have been for older kids, and maybe more intense than he is ready for. Are there any camps for kids going into 1st grade? It would be ideal if we could send his 9-year old brother with him to smooth his way. They don't have to be in the same group, but the younger one would be happy to have the older one at the same place and the older one has just started being really into looking out for his younger brother. The 9-year old isn't so keen to go to a math camp but is happy to do it to help out his brother. He is excellent at math. He was probably a dozen years ahead in school when he was in 2nd grade and spent about 5 hours a day doing math in his free time, but now he isn't so into it. It would be great if there were really good teachers there who could work at his level if he decides to get back into it, but won't push him if he doesn't want to. We are in Berkeley. Close is good but we would travel for the right place. Anon

Check out the Fun with Math! class offered through the ATDP program: My daughter really enjoyed it last year.

Math tutor for advanced 4th grader

Nov 2012

Looking for a math tutor for an advanced, although not genius, fourth grader. He's about a year ahead of his class and getting bored. The best fit would be someone with experience and knowledge of fourth and fifth grade California math curriculum and standards.

My freshman daughter has been working with Chris Bradley for a few years. He is a lovely young man finishing his AA at DVC and transfering to Cal. His math teacher is a friend of ours and she highly recommended him when we were looking for a new tutor. He is a natural at math. My daughter struggled with math concepts for years until she started working with Chris. She has had A's for 2 years now. Chris can communicate with her on a level that our pervious tutor couldn't. He is also working with my friends boys and they too are having great success. Chris's number is 925-771-4348, he comes to our home and we pay him 30.00/hour. tm

There are a number of Math Circles in the Bay Area that are perfect for a student who is advanced in his or her course and would enjoy an extra challenge. I'd be happy to talk with you about finding one that is a good fit. I also tutor for a living, and can work with your child; though I usually work with highschoolers I do have experience with younger students. I would also be happy to provide you with some ideas for resources in any case. You are right to be concerned, but there are lots of things you can do to help him through this. Susan

Games and activities for math-loving 2nd grader

March 2011

My son is in the 2nd grade and loves advanced board games, math, engineering, legos, reading, etc. Overall, he's much more advanced academically than socially. I'd love to hear ideas of things to do with him where he can feel challenged with the above interests. He's been asking about math tournaments or board game venues, etc. He does chess, and I'd like to see what else is out there. Also, if anyone has a similar son around 7.5 years old who would like to touch bases then please do. mary

Check out classes at Lawrence Hall of Science and Berkeley Math Circle|bmc_elementary|BMC%20Elementary, held on campus at Evans Hall. I think it might be too late for ATDP, but you could try that next summer. You could also get a membership at the California Academy of Sciences or try classes further afield at the Exploratorium. math teacher

For mathy games, I would try the Rush Hour, Set, and Got It!

The first is a game with a bunch of cars and trucks on a grid and you have to use logic to get them out. There are easy to expert set ups; my 4-year old can do through about #15, my husband (PhD in math) got stumped after spending about 30 minutes on one of the expert levels.

Set is an amazing card game. You have 81 cards which has 1, 2, or 3 figures; the figures can be 1 of 3 shapes; the shapes can have one of 3 fillings; the shapes can be 1 of 3 colors. Lay out 12 cards and work to find sets of 3 where everything is either all the same or all different (so all 3 cards have red ovals with stripes, and one card has 1, one card has 2 and one card has 3 is a set but if there were 2 cards with 2 and 1 card with 3 that would not be a set).

The last can be ordered from Slightly cheesey website but I've ordered from him and gotten the games fast. You lay out a grid of numbers and operators and then try to find the ''goal number'' using the numbers and operators you laid out.

There are math circles for elementary aged kids. My kid did the Berkeley circle last year which wasn't great for him (too much talking by the adults) though it may be different this year and it might be different for a kid who is older than mine was. There are other math circles in the Bay Area, the best one is probably at Nueva School but they only have 4 a year and they just had their last one. I know there are also math circles in Marin and SF.

There are math festivals (the Julia Robinson Math Festival was just held at Berkeley at the end of January and there is another at the beginning of May at Stanford), though they are typically for older kids. I know the Julia Robinson festival shoots for grades 6-12 though some younger kids do go. My guess is 2nd grade is a little too young but it is something to keep on your radar for when he is older.

I've heard good things (but never participated in or been to) the Maker Faire where people make random stuff and bring it in to show it off. It is at the end of May ( Maybe bring him this year and he could build something for next year?

I know there are a couple of rocket-building groups around, try Marin and Walnut Creek maybe. (Sorry, know very little about them.) Anon

Summer camp or after school enrichment for Math?

Nov 2010

My kid is really great at Math, which is something that I struggle with. I want to make sure his passion and talent is supported. Is there a math-based camp or after school club in the east bay I can sign him up for? Mom of math enthusiast

You don't say where you live or how old your son is, but our daughter likes this program that is for middle school kids in Orinda, Lafayette, and Moraga: The Moraga Math Circle
Parent of Math Whiz

Science and math activities for mom and 4 year old

Oct 2009

I am looking for fun science and math activities and games I can do with my four year old. The advice for helping kids learn language is pretty well advertised (read to them, talk to them, expose them to letters) but I have had a harder time finding suggestions on what to do for math and science. We have always counted together, and I sometimes ask her word questions to get her thinking about addition, and we sometimes play 'store' to play around with addition. But I feel like there has to be more. To be very clear, I am not looking for flash cards or trying to push my daughter or make her childhood overly academic or anything like that. I'm looking for fun things we can do together that will expose her to math and science, and let her explore at her own pace. I'm sure BPN'ers have lots of ideas and I look forward to hearing them! Thanks! Sarah

I was a science teacher for 11 years and have always enjoyed science. Math fits very well with science in terms of counting, recording data, making graphs, pie charts, analysing data, etc. I look for teachable moments. For example, my daughter finds mold on something. So what is mold exactly? Why does it grow on certain things and not others. There great resource books at Lawrence Hall of Science on home science experiments. I bought a cool book at the Exploratorium and we did an experiment where we poured agar, innoculated the dishes with home bacteria, and looked under a home microscope on what grew. We recorded every day the amount of growth, colors, etc. I used it as a way to teach the Scientific Method to my then 8 year old. Any time they ask ''why'' is a great time to say, ''Wow, that is an interesting question. Let's find out!'' There are many teacher resource sites on the internet that can also outline easy science activities. Look at insects under a magnifying glass in the back garden. Look under rocks for salamanders. Look in ponds for what lives in there, maybe taking a small fish net and a clear glass jar for ''finds.'' Watching drops of food coloring dissolve in a pyrex dish full of water was also a big hit (what if you change the temperature, blow on the water, etc.). Just make it fun! If they act bored, move on for the time. kl

Use real life situations as much as you can, these seem to be the most fun for kids. Teach your child about the coins and what they are worth. Let them pay at the store even if they don't understand how much it costs or how much they should get back.

You said you are doing counting. Modify it a little. Ask them to count from 5 to 9 and skip 8. It presents a challenge! Then go to higher ranges. Then ask them to count down.

In the car we also play games where I give a word, the kids say what letter it begins with. Or I say a letter, and they have to come up with the word. Then give words and ask them what the last letter is (be careful! you have to choose these words carefully for young ones)

Flash cards are not fun, I agree, but there is nothing wrong with giving some flash card like problems but orally. Again, we do this often in the car. You can also try problems that are ''too hard for them'', but talk them through it and help them break it down. 9+5 is really 10+5 then you subtract one. And 10+ 5 is easier.

Ask them how many strawberries they ate. Tell them they had 5 strawberries the first time and 3 the next, so how many strawberries in all?

I'm not sure I'd worry about science lessons per say, but visiting lots of places can lead to explanations that would fall in that category (e.g. golden gate bridge, and read the signs and talk about how much cable is used). There are lots of little things, like your cheerio floats in the bowl, do you think a coin will? Why is there water on the outside of a cold glass? Just help them observe things and find explanations for them. - teaching opportunities everywhere

Start at Lawrence Hall of Science -- visit the bookstore and buy Family Math, and browse the other math books with activities for young children. Sign your child up for one of the camps/classes as well. Books: How Many Snails by Paul Giganti -- actually, your best bet is to go to the library and ask the librarian for more book choices.

  Other ideas: Counting at the store -- i.e. can you help me put 5 apples in the bag. Sorting/organizing objects -- buttons, cards, coins Counting coins -- Games: Lotto Connect Four Blocks legos Classifying leaves (get a book to help yourself with the vocabulary) Observing bugs, insects, birds 

Have Fun! carol

I've bookmarked these two web sites for great math games that are fun for kids.

The latter has a listing of many fun games on the first page. You might also investigate the literature on Making Math Real which advocates fun ''real life'' activities for learning math. It was invented by a Berkeley professor. For science, there are these great little cards of science projects that you can find at any good book store. parent of math challenged kid

Early math skills involve sets, patterns, correspondence, more, fewer, etc. Beading is one activity that comes to mind--you can work with color and shapes to make patterns. We have pop beads, but also real beads from the craft or bead store ranging from plastic pony beads to crystals. Also cooking or baking from a recipe where you measure ingredients. Coloring/activity books have dot-to-dots, and some have some other beginning math activities. My daughter (now in K) has a Disney princess sticker activity book that has activites like put these stickers in order from the most to the least, and count the number of widgets (e.g. brooms) in a picture. Carrie


For a four year old, everything is one big old experiment: Science and math activities:

  • cook (measuring helps math and the cooking is science)
  • texture experiments (blind fold them and let them put their hands in cooked spaghetti, pudding, dried beans, etc...messy, but fun).
  • make a baking soda volcano
  • collect leaves and bugs
  • grow a plant from seeds
  • study dinosaurs
  • do sun prints
  • teach sorting and patterns: buy some tiny teddy bears from lakeshore learning...they are rainbow colored...have them sort by color, do patterns, count them. put pepper in a bowl of water, drop in a drop of dish detergent. beans in a jar. count them. study them.


I would suggest They Might be Giants, Here Comes Science Album. I am a science teacher and one big difference I see in my students is just kids who are aware of science vocabulary when they come into my class. The album has great songs that you could sing together.

In addition, I would just recommend getting some toys to help her explore nature such as a net, a bug box or other magnifier. Maybe start a small garden with her. My younger students have always enjoyed the Magic School Bus series (books and videos). They are factual and fun to enjoy together. Good luck. Science Teacher

Summer math camp for young girls

January 2007

Hi. Anyone know of some good summer math camps for young girls (aged 7-10?) I'm especially interested in Singapore Math instruction, but will gladly consider others. The recommendations on the site are a bit old, so I thought I'd see if anyone could recommend something more recent. Thank you! Maryanne

While I don't know about summer math for younger students, I thought I'd mention that Mount Holyoke College, the first of the Seven Sisters, has a summer math program for girls I think starting in 10th grade. They have a decent amount of financial aid. See the website at MHC is still for women only, and is located in Western Mass about 10 miles by 5- College bus from Amherst and Northampton. Maureen

We liked ATDP (Academic Talent Development Program). It is a half day camp put on by Cal -- they hold it at a school in Point Richmond. The math was interesting and my daughter definitely gained confidence. The emphasis was on developing thinking skills. It is also a great experience to learn with other kids who like learning. You can add activities/sports for the other half day, if you need a full day of camp. The camp is aimed at strong students, and the teaching is at a high level. The application process is long, but worth it. Lawrence Hall of Science also has a number of camps like Storybook Math and Storybook Science that tend to appeal to girls. Her favorite camp there was called something like ''Architecture.''(the math was mostly geometry) The Bees camp for younger kids was also very good. My daughter had varying success with the other camps -- I signed her up for a science class that was something like ''Chemistry for Girls,'' and they allowed a couple of older boys to sign up for the same session. The teachers didn't seem to have the skills to get everyone to participate, so the boys ended up dominating the class. Otherwise, her experiences there were pretty good. math teacher

My daughter's fabulous math tutor, Michelle Liotsakis, had a math camp last summer at her home in Alameda. My daughter was then 10 and enjoyed it a lot, and it really brought her up to speed for the start of fifth grade last fall. Contact Michelle at (510)769-6842. Lorraine

Fun Math Book for a 7-year-old

Nov 2006

My second-grader is jealous of the third-graders that he sees with math books, and has asked me if he can have one of his own. He's no genius, but is characterized as ''having strong math skills,'' and entertains himself by making up his own (simple) math problems and solving them. Do people have ideas of something mathbook-like that would be fun for him? Maybe something to stretch him a little but still feel like play? And a good place to buy something like this? Many thanks! Anon

maybe try they have a lot of puzzle books and other activities--have fun! anon

Fun math workbooks can be found in grocery stores these days. My son loved the ones they sell at Longs. There's also a ''teacher supply'' store in Walnut Creek that has lots of that kind of stuff. Even Barnes & Noble in Emeryville has a whole section of learning tools. I think it's in the kids' book section, or close by. It's wonderful how kids love to learn at that age, and it's so fun to watch! -Pam

I have a math-loving 7 yo too. _Primary Grade Challenge Math_ was recommended to me, although I haven't gotten it yet. A mom friend told me she went through the whole book with her children and they each did different levels of questions. Then the next year they went through it again doing the next level up!

A great place to explore math is Lawrence Hall of Science. They have tons of math and logic games out all the time. My son can go there and play those giant-sized games for hours. A great holiday gift would be a membership to LHS!

I recently read their book _Spark Your Child's Success In Math And Science_ which seemed more general than specific to me. But they have many resources listed in the back, including their Family Math products and the parent resource site I like to look at the selections in their store as well as the Exploratorium's store.

I am math and science challenged, despite my father being an astrophysicist. I'm hoping my 3 boys will exceed my capabilities! Math-aspiring

Try Star Education Supply (510) 525-6185,, 10512 San Pablo Ave in El Cerrito. They have more math (and other discipline) workbooks, games and such than you could imagine, for a variety of grade levels. Just hang on to your pocketbook, because there's so much temptation you could spend a fortune! KMS

Try shopping at Star Education, on San Pablo Av. in El Cerrito. They have lots and lots of workbooks. My 11 year old is enjoying his 5th grade spelling workbook we got there eve

Try out the online store for the Exploratorium in San Francisco. I was just checking out stuff there for Christmas presents and they had some fun looking math books for kids Math Also

Math enrichment classes for 6-year-old

April 2000

I would appreciate recommendations for math enrichment classes for our 6-year-old, who is just completing first grade. He is very advanced at math and is interested in working on concepts that are well beyond the school curriculum. Are there any after-school math classes, camps or tutors in the Berkeley area? Cheryl


Resources for mathematically-gifted 8-year-old

Sept 1999

I need advice about resources for mathematically gifted children. My son, age 8, lives and breathes math. At age 4, he could count to 120 by by 6's, convert feet to inches, and determined that my husband, then age 40-1/4, was 37 and 13 quarters. Last week, he calculated that 10 to the google seconds is 10 to the 86th millennia (or something like that). My husband tells me that is roughly right; I confess it is a bit beyond me. My son is bored silly in school, and I am wondering: (1) what can I legitimately expect (demand?) of the public school district in the way of enrichment; and (2) what resources are there outside the school system for a kid like this? Thanks for any input.

Stanford offers a program for gifted youth. Take look at their website for detailed information.

I think enrichment programs are at the discretion of the school district. You need to contact the principal or district and ask them about testing your child and what programs are available. Someone told me that all school districts are given money from the state to establish programs for gifted students.

Look at the following web site: They have a mailing list which may be able to give you more details.

The state of California's Education Code is at the web site below. See Chapter 8. Good luck.