Journal of Math Circles

Biographical Sketch

Alessandra Pantano received her Ph.D. from Princeton University and is now a Professor of Teaching in the Department of Mathematics at UC Irvine. Her research interests include representation theory and mathematics education. She is passionate about mathematics outreach to the community, and about promoting inclusive excellence in mathematics. Alessandra is director and founder of the UCI Math Circle, UCI Math CEO and UCI Math ExpLR.

John N. Treuer graduated from UC Irvine with a Ph.D. in mathematics in 2021. John has been working with the UCI Math Circle since 2015. In 2020, John became a UCI Math Circle Coordinator. In fall of 2021, John will join Texas A&M University as a Visiting Assistant Professor. John's research interests are several complex variables.

Yasmeen Baki is a graduate student in the Mathematics Department at UC Irvine. She joined the UCI Math Circle 2019, and became a UCI Math Circle coordinator in 2020. She is passionate about math outreach in her community, and making math accessible and intuitive to students of all ages. Her research interests are in non-commutative algebra.


Transitioning the UCI Math Circle (UCIMC) to an online format has forced us to pivot our pedagogical goals from teaching specific mathematical concepts to building an online mathematical community of young scholars. Each academic quarter, we recruit math Ph.D. students, undergraduate math majors, and faculty to serve as UCIMC mentors and run small breakout rooms during each meeting. Mentors are asked to volunteer for an entire quarter, so that they have time to build bonds with participants. The curriculum, created by the Julia Robinson Math Festival, and the accompanying digital applications, allows students of all ages to engage in online mathematical explorations. Prior to each UCIMC meeting, we run a “mentor training” session where we train the mentors on how to use an inquiry-based approach to guide their students on the week’s online mathematical game or puzzle. Students are encouraged to come up with their own observations and hypotheses, as young mathematical researchers, towards understanding a mathematical investigation. With 23 sessions offered throughout the school year, and an average attendance of 50 students and 10 mentors, UCIMC is making an impact on students’ math skills, while also bringing solace and stability to youths in the pandemic, by offering a dependable once-a-week scheduled online visit with peers and college mentors. In this paper, we detail the benefits of this approach towards fostering community between and among the students and mentors, and the benefits gained by the mentors towards developing their own teaching skills. Using comparison data collected from the past several years, we describe how our novel approach has been a resounding success. The geographical reach of UCIMC has expanded, our attendance has increased, and we have been able to better retain female UCIMC students.

Description of Program

The UCI Math Circle (UCIMC) is a free math enrichment program aimed at enhancing appreciation of mathematics, and teaching interesting mathematics not covered in a typical school curriculum. Participants are actively engaged in sessions of problem solving, specifically designed to empower their mathematical thinking skills. Housed at the University of California, Irvine, since 2012, UCIMC has served students grades 4-12 in Southern California. Website: https://www.math.uci.edu/~mathcircle/ Contact information: <mathcircle@math.uci.edu>.