Madison Math Circle Spring 2016

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For the site in Spanish, visit Math Circle de Madison

What is a Math Circle?

The Madison Math Circle is a weekly series of mathematically based activities aimed at interested middle school and high school students. It is an outreach program organized by the UW Math Department. Our goal is to provide a taste of exciting ideas in math and science. In the past we've had talks about plasma and weather in outer space, video game graphics, and encryption. In the sessions, students (and parents) are often asked to explore problems on their own, with the presenter facilitating a discussion. The talks are independent of one another, so new students are welcome at any point.

The level of the audience varies quite widely, including a mix of middle school and high school students, and the speakers generally address this by considering subjects that will be interesting for a wide range of students.

MathCircle 2.jpg MathCircle 4.jpg

After each talk we'll have pizza provided by the Mathematics Department, and students will have an opportunity to mingle and chat with the speaker and with other participants, to ask questions about some of the topics that have been discussed, and also about college, careers in science, etc.

The Madison Math circle was featured in Wisconsin State Journal: check it out!

All right, I want to come!

We have a weekly meeting, Monday at 6pm in 3255 Helen C White Library, during the school year. New students are welcome at any point! There is no fee and the talks are independent of one another, so you can just show up any week, but we ask all participants to take a moment to register by following the link below:

Math Circle Registration Form

All of you information is kept private, and is only used by the Madison Math Circle organizer to help run the Circle.

If you are a student, we hope you will tell other interested students about these talks, and speak with your parents or with your teacher about organizing a car pool to the UW campus. If you are a parent or a teacher, we hope you'll tell your students about these talks and organize a car pool to the UW (all talks take place in 3255 Helen C White Library, on the UW-Madison campus, right next to the Memorial Union).

Directions and parking

Our meetings are held on the 3rd floor of Helen C. White Hall in room 3255.


Parking. Parking on campus is rather limited. Here is as list of some options:

Email list

The best way to keep up to date with the what is going is by signing up for our email list. Send an empty email to

Contact the organizers

The Madison Math Circle is organized by a group of three professors and three graduate students from the Department of Mathematics at the UW-Madison. If you have any questions, suggestions for topics, or so on, just email the organizers here. We are always interested in feedback!


Please consider donating to the Madison Math Circle. As noted in our annual report, our main costs consist of pizza and occasional supplies for the speakers. So far our costs have been covered by donations from the UW Mathematics Department as well as a generous gifts from a private donor. But our costs are rising, primarily because this year we expect to hold more meetings than in any previous year. In fact, this year, we expect to spend at least $2500 on pizza and supplies alone.

So please consider donating to support your math circle! The easiest way to donate is to go to the link:

Online Donation Link

There are instructions on that page for donating to the Math Department. Be sure and add a Gift Note saying that the donation is intended for the "Madison Math Circle"! The money goes into the Mathematics Department Annual Fund and is routed through the University of Wisconsin Foundation, which is convenient for record-keeping, etc.

Alternately, you can bring a check to one of the Math Circle Meetings. If you write a check, be sure to make it payable to the "WFAA" and add the note "Math Circle Donation" on the check.

Or you can just pay in cash, and we'll give you a receipt.

Help us grow!

If you like Math Circle, please help us continue to grow! Students, parents, and teachers can help by:

  • Posting our flyer at schools or anywhere that might have interested students
  • Discussing the Math Circle with students, parents, teachers, administrators, and others
  • Making an announcement about Math Circle at PTO meetings
  • Donating to Math Circle

Contact the organizers if you have questions or your own ideas about how to help out.

Meetings for Fall 2015 and Spring 2016

Unless specified talks start at 6pm in room 3255 of Helen C. White Library, unless otherwise noted.

Fall 2015
Date Speaker Topic
September 14, 2015 David Sondak How to SEE Sound
September 21, 2015 Uri Andrews Guarding Mona Lisa
September 28, 2015 Eva Elduque Pick's Theorem
October 5, 2015 Jessica Lin The Math of Sudoku
October 12, 2015 Ryan Julian Eight Dimensional Oranges
October 19, 2015 Keith Rush CANCELLED
October 26, 2015 Megan Maguire Aperiodic tilings: Beyond your parents' bathroom floor
November 2, 2015 Marko Budisic Mathematics of GPS satellites
November 9, 2015 Tess Anderson Gold Coins and Goats
November 16, 2015 DJ Bruce To Infinity And Beyond?
November 23, 2015 Tullia Dymarz (Last meeting of fall) TBA
Spring 2016
Date Speaker Topic
February 1, 2016 Will Mitchell Are these networks the same?
February 8, 2016 Lalit Jain Large amounts of small money
February 15, 2016 Daniel Erman What is the biggest number?
February 22, 2016 Soumya Sankar What would you do if you had only nickels and dimes?
February 29, 2016 Alexandra (Sashka) Kjuchukova How big is your infinity?
March 7, 2016 Solly Parenti 101-meter Dash
March 14, 2016 Chiara Franceschini PRIME NUMBERS: Why (not only) mathematician care about them?
March 21, 2016 No Meeting (Spring Break)
March 28, 2016 No Meeting (Spring Break)
April 4, 2016 Becky Eastham Become a Mastermind at Codebreaking and Logic Puzzles!
April 11, 2016 Micky Soule Steinberg Groups: An Introduction
April 18, 2016 Alisha Zachariah The Power Tower
April 25, 2016 Betsy Stovall N to N+1. The art of induction.
May 2, 2016
Jen Beichman
Special Location: 9th Floor Van Vleck
Using Bubbles to Solve Math Problems.

High School Meetings

We are experimenting with holding some Math Circle meetings directly at local high schools. Our schedule for the fall is below. If you are interesting in having us come to your high school, please contact us!

Fall 2015
Date Location Speaker Topic Link for more info
September 28, 2015 2:45pm East High Daniel Erman How to Catch a (data) thief
October 19, 2015 2:45pm East High Carolyn Abbott Donuts and Coffee Cups
Spring 2016
Date Location Speaker Topic Link for more info
February 22, 2016 2:45pm Memorial High Jordan Ellenberg The Game of Set
March 31, 2016 12:00pm West High Daniel Erman How to Catch a (Data) Thief
April 18, 2016 2:45pm Memorial High DJ Bruce To Infinity and Beyond
April 21, 2016 12:00pm West High DJ Bruce Can you untie a know with a knot?
May 20, 2016 2:45pm East High DJ Bruce Is any knot not the unknot?

Useful Resources

Annual Reports

2013-2014 Annual Report

Archived Abstracts

Archived Math Circle Material

Link for presenters (in progress)

Advice For Math Circle Presenters

Sample Lesson Plans

"Circle in a Box"