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Program inspires Houston students to explore mathematics

Math circle 2The Rice University Department of Mathematics together with the Rice University School Mathematics Project (RUSMP) launched a Math Circle at Rice University in September, thanks to the efforts of Texas Children's Hospital mathematician, Zachary Franco M.D., Ph.D., Anne Papakonstantinou, RUSMP director, and Brendan Hassett, chair of the Mathematics Department.

Rice’s Math Circle joins a national network of Mathematical Circles, organizations that unite mathematicians and precollege students who are interested in mathematics. Math Circles create opportunities for stimulating mathematics enrichment, while providing mathematics faculty opportunities to provide university outreach.

Students meet with mathematicians in informal settings to work on challenging problems or explore topics in mathematics that receive little or no attention in precollege mathematics classes. The goal is to inspire precollege students to explore mathematics and give them access to rigorous mathematics that encourages a passion for mathematics. Math Circles are an ideal way for gifted mathematics students to interact with mathematicians and university students who love mathematics.

“I am pleased there is interest in this program both from Rice and the Houston community. Houston has a large number of math whizzes. While internet resources exist for these students, learning math as part of a city-wide group like this is more fun.” Franco said.

Math circle 3The Rice Math Circle is designed for Houston-area students in grades 7-12 who have a basic knowledge of geometry, have mastered algebra, and who want to solve world-class mathematics problems such as those from past Mathematics Olympiads and American Regions Mathematics League. The first meeting of Rice’s Math Circle on September 16, 2012 brought together nearly seventy enthusiastic precollege students. Students meet on selected Sundays from 1-4 pm on the Rice University campus in Herman Brown Hall in room 227.

Led by Zachary Franco with presentations by Rice mathematics faculty and assistance from Isil Nal, mathematics teacher and assistant principal at the Harmony School of Excellence in Houston and mathematics graduate students, precollege students have explored and solved challenging problems in number theory, inequalities, geometry, polynomials, and mathematical induction. Franco is a former Math Olympiad coach who envisioned the Rice Math Circle as a way to attract and support the development of students gifted in mathematics.

“The Rice mathematics department is pleased to host some of the brightest and most creative students from across Houston. We are delighted to see them doing math because they love it, and gratified that teachers and other members of the community are devoting their time to mentoring them. We are especially appreciative to Dr. Zachary Franco for his leadership in starting this program.” Hassett said.

For those interested in learning more about Rice’s Math Circle, please visit their websiteProblems, solutions, and readings from prior meetings may be found on the site as well as dates for future meetings. Rice’s Math Circle offers a tremendous opportunity for students who are bored with the lack of challenging problems presented in their schools.

ANNE PAPAKONSTANTINOU
Director
Rice University School Mathematics Project