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I teach at a University in a town of roughly 5700 people with a few towns of comparable size within twenty minutes drive. I am very much interested in starting a Math Circle in the area and am looking for advice from folks who have successfully had math circles in comparable geographic areas. In particular, I'd appreciate advice on the following topics:

  1. Location: Should I host the math circle on my University's campus or somewhere in the community (e.g., public library or community center)? Should its location rotate between the various towns or should it stay in the same place?
  2. Audience: Is it easier to attract students older than 14? Between 10 and 14? Younger than 10? Are there any examples of math circles that simultaneously cater to both older and younger students? At the same time in the same room? Or on alternating weeks?
  3. Publicity: What's the best way to announce the existence of the math circle? Local newspapers, directly talking to local school teachers?

And I'd certainly welcome any advice on topics I haven't mentioned.

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    $\begingroup$ Please clarify older and younger. $\endgroup$ – Sue VanHattum Jun 6 '14 at 5:35
  • $\begingroup$ One thing I have done before is have a group for students and parents. They are separated, for most of the time (doing the same activity), and then come together at the end. Hopefully the shared experience but also the mystery (of not seeing each other participate) helps them to talk to each other about math on the ride home and encourages this chatter in the future! It was a big success in terms of student and parent entertainment, but I'm not so sure about the long term goal of stemming math conversations between kids and parents was achieved. $\endgroup$ – WetlabStudent Jun 11 '14 at 16:55
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You absolutely need to read Circle in a Box, Sam Vandervelde, as soon as possible. It is pretty short and it goes through a ton of surprisingly useful specifics instead of waxing poetic about the ideas.

At the moment, the PDF can be found here:

http://www.mathcircles.org/GettingStartedForNewOrganizers_WhatIsAMathCircle_CircleInABox

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One set location is definitely better. And I'd recommend starting with one circle.

I believe Circle in a Box says that high school age students are busier with their other activities and less likely to come. Math clubs for younger kids (under 10) often feature more activity-based sessions. I did a "math salon" at my home for a few years. New people came each time. It was parents and kids together. I'd rather work with a math circle, but haven't had the time and energy to start something big. I'm offering a math circle at the community college I work at. Last semester I got 5 students. This fall, I'll ask other teachers to mention it to their students, and maybe I'll get a few more.

www.mathcircles.org may answer more of your questions.

If you'd like more specific help, you can email me at mathanthologyeditor@gmail.com. (If the answers here don't seem complete, I can invite a few people to come and give their expertise.)

Bob and Ellen Kaplan wrote Out of the Labyrinth: Setting Mathematics Free, an excellent book on math circles. That's what got me involved.

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    $\begingroup$ "If the answers here don't seem complete, I'll invite a few people to come and give their expertise." This would be great! $\endgroup$ – Benjamin Dickman Jun 7 '14 at 3:11
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We'd welcome you at our Math Circle summer teacher training Institute, held at Notre Dame July 6th-12th. E-mail us for details.

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    $\begingroup$ Thanks for the invitation, but this isn't really an answer to the question. $\endgroup$ – ncr Jun 7 '14 at 18:45
  • $\begingroup$ Ahh, but you'd be able to answer your question yourself if you went. The Institute is a great way to get started with math circles. $\endgroup$ – Sue VanHattum Jun 8 '14 at 5:08
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    $\begingroup$ -1. After googling, it seems that you (Mr. Kaplan) have the potential to be a great resource here at MESE. However, your response here - while kind - does not provide the advice that @ncr has asked about. Perhaps you can edit your answer with specific details, but - in any event - I hope that you will look through some of the other MESE questions and see for which posts you could provide insights. (Perhaps others with whom you work could do the same?) For now, though, I must down-vote this answer; though I'll happily vote it back up if you edit to provide the requisite details! $\endgroup$ – Benjamin Dickman Jun 8 '14 at 18:09
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Use technology. You don't have to restrict yourself to a limited geographic area that way. Welcome anyone interested, limiting yourself leads nowhere. Make sure everyone has an important task (if they want), feeling useful is an important part of being a member.

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    $\begingroup$ Thank you for the advice. I'm a big proponent of technology but in my particular I feel it would be better for me to get things off the ground in a more traditional way. $\endgroup$ – ncr Jun 6 '14 at 16:40
  • $\begingroup$ @ncr just don't limit your group $\endgroup$ – vonbrand Jun 7 '14 at 12:17

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