Mathematical circles are a form of outreach that bring mathematicians into direct contact with pre-college students. These students, and sometimes their teachers, meet with a mathematician or graduate student in an informal setting, after school or on weekends, to circle work on interesting problems or topics in mathematics. The goal is to get the students excited about the mathematics they are learning; to give them a setting that encourages them to become passionate about mathematics.

Math circles can have a variety of styles. Some are very informal, with the learning proceeding through games, stories, or hands-on activities. Others are more traditional enrichment classes, but without formal examinations. Some have a strong emphasis on preparing for olympiad competitions; some avoid competition as much as possible. Models can use any combination of these techniques, depending on the audience, the mathematician, and the environment of the circle. Athletes have sports teams through which to deepen their involvement with sports; math circles can play a similar role for kids who like to think. One feature all math circles have in common is that they are composed of students who enjoy learning mathematics, and the circle gives them a social context in which to do so.

There are lots of math circles throughout the US (I run one in Atlanta, for example), and I highly recommend checking out this list and doing a little googling to find out if there's one near you!

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