Frequently Asked Questions

Image provided by SouthEast Ohio MTC — Athens, OH

Math Teachers’ Circles

Who participates in Math Teachers’ Circles?

Each Math Teachers’ Circle includes approximately 15 to 20 teachers at the elementary, middle, and/or high school level. Groups also include several mathematics department faculty members from a college or university, or other professional mathematicians from academia or industry.

How often do Math Teachers’ Circles meet?

Math Teachers’ Circles meet 6 to 8 times each academic year. Doing mathematics is the primary focus of each meeting. Meetings are 2 to 3 hours in length, including a mathematics session that is at least 90 minutes long, some time to socialize, and (at the discretion of the leadership team) some time devoted to pedagogically oriented discussion or activities.

New Math Teachers’ Circle receiving support from the Math Teachers’ Circle Network are also expected to hold an initial intensive workshop of at least 3 full days (“immersion workshop”). We will sponsor a mentor from another Math Teachers’ Circle to help lead the initial workshop.

What is a Math Teachers’ Circle meeting like?

The best way to answer this question is to experience one. We recommend that you check out our videos. We are also happy to help coordinate an in-person or virtual visit to a Math Teachers’ Circle meeting if you contact us. The MTC Network sponsors an in-person visit to a nearby Math Teachers’ Circle for all new Network-supported MTCs.

What is an immersion workshop?

An immersion workshop is a 3- to 5-day workshop during which teachers and professors work together intensively on mathematics. Sessions are often drawn from a “canon” of classic Math Teachers’ Circle sessions [link to sample immersion workshop schedule coming soon]. The purpose is to build community through persevering in solving problems together and developing a shared mathematical language.

What are the benefits of joining the Math Teachers’ Circle Network?

There are many, including:

  • Being listed on our Members Circles page and inclusion of your events on our calendar of MTC meetings nationwide
  • Eligibility for seed and exchange grants offered through AIM
  • Printed copies of the MTCircular newsletter for your MTC’s members
  • Subscription to the MTC leaders’ listserv
  • A care package with essential supplies and toys to get you started
  • Access to password-protected resources such as sample grant proposals
  • An annual consulting call with MTC Network staff to check in about your MTC and assist with any emerging issues
  • Additional assistance as needed from MTC Network staff with requests such as finding a guest session leader, locating potential sources of funding, or troubleshooting common issues with starting or sustaining a MTC

Back to top

Applying for Support

Leadership Teams

Can a math coach or math professional development coordinator be part of our leadership team?

Yes! In fact, we encourage you to seek out teachers (or former classroom teachers who are now coaches or professional development coordinators) who have extensive connections with the local teaching community and can help recruit other teachers for your MTC.

Can we include high school teachers on our team? How about in our Math Teachers’ Circle?

At present, AIM will preferentially support new Math Teachers’ Circles that primarily involve middle school teachers. Because of this focus, we feel it is most logical for the leadership team to include middle school teachers rather than high school teachers. Many existing Math Teachers’ Circles do have high school teacher members, and having some high school members does not preclude support.

If your Math Teachers’ Circle will have a primarily high school focus, we cannot offer financial support or intensive staff support at this time. However, you are welcome to use any of our materials that are helpful, and you can contact us about becoming part of the Math Teachers’ Circle Network, which offers a number of benefits.

Can a mathematics education faculty member be part of our leadership team?

Yes, but at least one person on your team must be a mathematics faculty member with a permanent (or tenure-track) appointment in a college or university mathematics department.

Can a lecturer in the mathematics department be part of our leadership team?

Yes, if he or she is a permanent lecturer or a lecturer whose appointment may be renewed indefinitely.

Back to top

Host Institutions

What are examples of host institutions?

Most commonly, MTCs are hosted by college or university mathematics departments. Other possible host sites include campus-wide STEM centers, school district offices, research institutes, county offices of education, national labs, community centers, or professional development centers that serve several school districts.

What commitment is required to host a MTC?

At minimum, a host institution must commit to providing space for the MTC’s meetings, which typically take place 6 to 8 times during each school year.

If the host institution is a mathematics department, the department must also commit to encouraging faculty members (in addition to the leadership team members) to lead sessions for the MTC.

Here are some other ways a host institution can support the work of a MTC:

  • Donate copies
  • Provide dinner/refreshments
  • Host the MTC’s website
  • Provide staff support or a student worker to handle administrative duties for the MTC. Expected time commitment is approximately 10 hours per meeting.

I am the chair of our university’s mathematics department. What are the benefits to our department of hosting a Math Teachers’ Circle?

  • Hosting a Math Teachers’ Circle demonstrates that your department is involved with and committed to the local education community.
  • You will maintain ties with local teachers who are department alumni. Not only will you enjoy continuing to work with them mathematically, but they also may be able to help you with pre-service teacher placement or with guiding talented students to your department.
  • Faculty can share their enjoyment of mathematics with other professionals, while at the same time demonstrating a concrete commitment to the broader impacts of their mathematical work.
  • Graduate students can develop their teaching and outreach credentials, positioning them well in a highly competitive job market.
  • Pre-service teachers can observe a professional learning community in action and make connections with local practicing teachers, enriching their educational experience and potentially increasing their local employment opportunities.

An article describing the benefits of Math Teachers’ Circles for mathematicians appeared in the December 2014 issue of the Notices of the American Mathematical Society.

Do you have an example letter of commitment that we can use as a template for our letter?

Yes. Here is an example letter of commitment from a math department chair.

Back to top


What happened to the How to Run a Math Teachers' Circle workshops?

From 2007 to 2014, AIM organized annual workshops on “How to Run a Math Teachers’ Circle,” with support from the Mathematical Association of America, the National Security Agency, and the National Science Foundation. These workshops evolved significantly over time and developed into a highly successful means of beginning MTCs, with approximately 90 percent of teams who participated in the last three years of workshops forming a Math Teachers’ Circle.

With space for only 12 teams each summer, however, the workshops are not able to meet the increasing demand for creating new Math Teachers’ Circles. Furthermore, the centralized workshop model does not make the most of the distributed expertise of Math Teachers’ Circle leaders. Our new, hybrid model for starting new Math Teachers’ Circles integrates centralized Web and staff resources with a mentor network of expert leaders around the country.

What if we don’t want to apply for support to start our MTC? Can we still be part of the MTC Network?

Yes. Please send a brief statement of the plans and goals for your Math Teachers’ Circle to Brianna Donaldson, Director of Special Projects at AIM, at brianna(at)aimath(.)org. Please also include a list of the schedule, topics, and session leaders for your upcoming meetings, if available.