What is a Math Teachers’ Circle?

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Math Teachers’ Circles are professional development communities of mathematics teachers and mathematicians who meet regularly to work on rich mathematics problems. They provide an opportunity for teachers to enrich their own knowledge and experience of mathematics, while building long-term, meaningful partnerships with other teachers and mathematicians. Groups often start with a weeklong summer workshop followed by monthly meetings during the next academic year and subsequent years.

Who participates?

Each Math Teachers’ Circle includes approximately 15 to 20 teachers. Most teachers who participate teach at the middle school level, but many groups also include high school or elementary school teachers. Groups also include several mathematicians, who most frequently are college or university faculty.

What are the benefits?

Math Teachers’ Circles are well aligned with the Common Core State Standards for Mathematical Practice and have been recommended as a form of professional development for middle and high school teachers by the Conference Board of the Mathematical Sciences Mathematical Education of Teachers II document. Ongoing research has begun to demonstrate the benefits of Math Teachers’ Circles for teachers’ confidence, knowledge, and teaching of mathematics. Mathematicians gain an opportunity to share their enjoyment of mathematics with teachers, contribute to teacher education and enrichment, and become more involved in the local education community.

What is the Math Teachers’ Circle Network?

The Math Teachers’ Circle Network is a project of the American Institute of Mathematics that links together Math Teachers’ Circles around the country. We provide ongoing support, including notes from successful math sessions, a discussion group, and a semi-annual newsletter.

History

The first Math Teachers’ Circle was started at the American Institute of Mathematics in 2006. The idea came from Mary Fay-Zenk, a middle school teacher and veteran math team coach who regularly attended meetings of the San Jose Math Circle with her students and thought that middle school math teachers would enjoy having their own forum to enrich their problem-solving skills, share ideas about pedagogy, and develop a professional support network.

In 2007, the American Institute of Mathematics began a series of workshops on How to Run a Math Teachers’ Circle. These workshops, sponsored by the National Security Agency, the National Science Foundation, and the Mathematical Association of America, help teams of teachers and mathematicians start and sustain Math Teachers’ Circles in their local areas.

There are currently more than 50 active Math Teachers’ Circles. To locate a group near you, check out our member circles.