Fall Registration: New guidelines!

By | Program

As we gear up for fall registration I wanted to write a few words for families as they choose a program level. I’m doing this partly because I field a lot of emails concerning placement, and partly because I want to change the way we all conceptualize the process.

Previously many of us have focused on acceleration–that being at a more ‘advanced’ level indicated a kind of status. To me, acceleration is counter to the spirit of the enrichment we are trying to offer. It’s true that some of our younger students are prepared for program levels for older kids because they’ve had opportunities to get ahead. However, most of these students will find plenty to challenge and interest them in the levels recommended for their age group. By participating in each of the levels without accelerating, I really do think each student will reap the greatest benefit.

I don’t intend to be inflexible when making these placement decisions, but I want to strongly encourage families (and most particularly those families that are new to our programs) to follow the guidelines below. If you still aren’t sure, write a message to and ask!

Haynes (formerly Archimedes): Virtually all 5th and 6th graders should sign up for this level. You might have studied some Algebra (the new national math standards mention “Algebraic Thinking” from 1st grade on), but the are unlikely to have had a full high school level course by this time.

Brahmagupta: We’d like all 7th graders and many 8th graders to sign up for Brahmagupta.

Cantor: This program is meant for 9th and 10th graders enrolled in Algebra 1 or Geometry, and 8th graders that have completed or are enrolled in a high school level Algebra 1 course.

Kovalevsky (formerly DesCartes): Students in high school who have completed a high school geometry course should enroll in Kovalevsky.

Euler: You should sign up for Euler if you’ve been in Euler before or if you have completed two years in Kovalevsky/DesCartes. Our Euler level is where we think about math particularly deeply and where previous experience with math circles really helps! If you haven’t participated before and are interested, and you haven’t completed two years of Kovalevsky/DesCartes, write an email to and tell us about yourself! (Note: UChicago will have the Kovalevsky level for the first time this year!)

A note on absences: We will continue to use absences to determine who gets to automatically enroll in math circles for the following quarter. However, we are changing our policy about dropping students who miss the first session of a quarter. If you are offered a spot and can’t make the first day, email at least 48 hours before the session begins; please include your name, location, and session. If you don’t do this and we have a waitlist for that session, you will get dropped! Also, we do want students to come on time–please note that if you are more than 30 minutes late to a session, you will not be counted present that day.

Women in Mathematics and Math Circles

By | Equity, Program

Mathematics is a human activity. As such, it crosses all boundaries of identity. As an organization that is determined to provide access to engaging and novel mathematics to all 5th to 12th graders across Chicago, it’s vital that we actively promote this idea.

To date, the five programming levels we’ve taught have been named after well known mathematicians from history: Archimedes, Brahmagupta, Cantor, DesCartes, and Euler. This has had the advantage of simple alphabetical order; it has had the drawback that all of these mathematicians are men.

This fall we will rename two levels: Haynes and Kovalevsky (and we will drop the names Archimedes and DesCartes). In 1943 Euphemia Lofton Haynes was the first black woman in America to earn a PhD in mathematics at Catholic University (prior to her PhD she was a master’s student at the University of Chicago). In 1874 Sonia Kovalevsky was the first woman in history to earn a PhD.

Women have played a significant part in the development of the Math Circles of Chicago. Two current PhD students at UIC, Ellie Dannenberg and Janet Page, have taught and planned more MC^2 sessions than anyone else in our six year history (and their plans are used by teachers at four of our sites). Ann Turner, math circle parent, founded our site at Audubon (now Lane Tech), which she managed voluntarily until I was hired a year ago.

I hope that changing these names is a step towards changing the identity of math enrichment. We want our students to reflect our community and the diversity that makes up the city of Chicago, and in that spirit we wanted to honor a diverse group of math pioneers through these names!