Journal of Math Circles

Biographical Sketch

Philip DeOrsey received his Ph.D. from the University of Colorado Denver and is now an assistant professor at Westfield State University. His mathematical interests include combinatorics, finite geometry, graph theory, and recreational mathematics. He strives to bring these interesting mathematical ideas to students at all levels in an exciting and active way. To further this mission he co-directs the Western Massachusetts Math Circle that serves the K-12 community surrounding Westfield, Massachusetts.

Corey Pooler is a recent graduate of Westfield State University, earning a bachelors degree in mathematics and an initial teaching license. At Westfield State he participated in the Western Massachusetts Math Circle, bringing engaging mathematics content to students in K-12 education. Corey also presented at multiple local, regional, and national conferences, often giving talks about Mathematical Zendo and it’s applications into the classroom. Currently, Corey works at Willow Hill School as a 6th-12th grade mathematics teacher.

Michael Ferrara is a program director in the Division of Undergraduate Education at the National Science Foundation and a Professor Adjoint in the Deparment of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences at the University of Colorado Denver. His research interests include combinatorics, undergraduate STEM education and the preparation and support of pre- and in-service STEM Teachers. He has delivered over 250 K-12 outreach lessons and teacher PD workshops, and these interactions are amongst his most rewarding professional activities. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this paper are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.


Mathematical Zendo is a logic game that actively engages participants in pattern recognition, problem solving, and critical thinking while providing a fun opportunity to explore all manner of mathematical objects. Based upon the popular game of Zendo, created by Looney Labs, Mathematical Zendo centers on a secret rule, chosen by the leader, that must be guessed by teams of players. In each round of the game, teams provide examples of the mathematical object of interest (e.g. functions, numbers, sets) and receive information about whether their guesses do or do not satisfy the secret rule. In this paper, we introduce Mathematical Zendo, provide examples of games and rules that have proven to be engaging over testing with hundreds of students and teachers, and discuss best practices for implementation.

Description of Program

We are part of the Western Massachusetts Math Circle which serves the community in Westfield Massachusetts. We run events for students and teachers in the 5-12 grade band. You can learn more about our program by visiting out website westernmassmathcircle.org or by emailing info@westernmassmathcircle.org

TeacherGuide.pdf (1536 kB)
Teacher Guide from appendix