Madison Math Circle

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We are thrilled to announce that, starting on September 28, we have a beautiful new room for our Math Circle: Room 3255 in the Helen C White Library, which is right next to the Memorial Union on the UW Campus. We apologize for the inconvenience that our room changes have caused but we think this will be a great fit.

Weekly Meeting

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 required registration, no fee, and the talks are independent of one another, so you can just show up any week. See below for directions.

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).

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.

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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:

All right, I want to come!

Directions and parking

Meetings are held in 120 Ingraham Hall.

Ingraham Map.jpg

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

Email list

Sign up for our email list:

Contact the organizers

If you have any questions, suggestions for topics, or so on, just email the organizers (Carolyn Abbott, Gheorghe Craciun, Daniel Erman, Lalit Jain, Ryan Julian, and Philip Matchett Wood): We are always interested in feedback!

Report on Math Circle in 2013-14

Annual Report


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. Our costs have been covered so far by donations from the UW Math Department plus 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.


Please feel free to distribute our flyer! Flyer

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

All talks are at 6pm in Ingraham Hall room 120, 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 Abstract
October 26, 2015 Megan Maguire Abstract
November 2, 2015 Marko Budisic Abstract
November 9, 2015 Tess Anderson Abstract
November 16, 2015 DJ Bruce Abstract
November 23, 2015 Tullia Dymarz (Last meeting of fall) Abstract
Spring 2016
Date Speaker Topic
February 1, 2016 Will Mitchell Are these networks the same?
February 8, 2016 Lalit Jain Abstract
February 15, 2016 Jordan Ellenberg Abstract
February 22, 2016 TBA Abstract
February 29, 2016 TBA Abstract
March 7, 2016 TBA Abstract
March 14, 2016 TBA Abstract
March 21, 2016 No Meeting (Spring Break) Abstract
March 28, 2016 No Meeting (Spring Break) Abstract
April 4, 2016 TBA Abstract
April 11, 2016 Andrew Kidd Abstract
April 18, 2016 TBA Abstract
April 25, 2016 TBA Abstract
May 2, 2016 TBA Abstract

High school meetings for Fall 2015

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 Abstract
October 19, 2015 2:45pm East High Uri Andrews Abstract


David Sondak

How to SEE Sound

The idea is to give a simple overview of sound waves by introducing sines and cosines and some of their basic anatomy (amplitude and frequency). We will then have a computational component where the students create their own sound waves by fiddling with parameters in the sines and cosines (again, amplitude, frequency and different superpositions of the sines and cosines). They will actually be able to see plots of their waves AND listen to their waves. Finally, if time permits, the students will use their own sound waves to make Oobleck dance. This will bring the exercise full circle in that they will be able to see their very own sound waves in action.

Uri Andrews

Guarding Mona Lisa

You have gotten a tip that a famous art thief is going to steal something from the Louvre. It is your task to organize a security team that can watch all the works of art. The problem is that the Louvre is really big and has a strange layout. Where do you put your guards? And how many do you need?

Eva Elduque

Pick's Theorem

In this talk, we will a very easy formula that allows us to quickly compute the areas of polygons whose vertices are points of a grid, and we will prove that this formula works. (Solutions to the worksheet distributed during the circle can be found File:Pick.pdf.)

Jessica Lin

The Math of Sudoku

Have you ever sat next to someone in the airport or airplane who plays sudoku? Have you ever tried to play yourself? When you play, do you have some strategies that help you to complete the puzzle? It turns out that there is some deep mathematics behind this simple game. Come to math circle this week to learn about it, and maybe you can help the person next to you solve his/her sudoku!

Ryan Julian

The Geometry of Hockeysticks and Eight Dimensional Oranges

Like most people, I've often considered opening an eight dimensional grocery store. Of course, the main difficulty with this plan is that I'd need some way of neatly stacking all of the eight dimensional fruit that I'd be selling. In this talk, we'll explore a variety of elementary counting problems, discover that nearly all elementary counting problems are really the same problem, and we'll apply these new insights to determine how to stack 8 dimensional fruits into neat 8 dimensional pyramids.

Daniel Erman

How to catch a (data) thief

I will discuss some surprising statistical facts that have been used to catch companies that lie about data.

Will Mitchell

Are these networks the same?

The question of deciding whether two things are the same comes up in many different places in math. In this session we'll consider the problem of deciding if two networks or "graphs" are the same. This leads to some entertaining and challenging puzzles. We will also learn a bit about how people try to solve similar problems using computers. This problem has applications in the design of electronic circuits and in searching for organic chemical compounds within large databases.

Contact Information Form

Link to Contact Information Form

Archived Math Circle Material

Archived Math Circle Material

Link for presenters (in progress)