What are BMC and BAMO?
Berkeley Math Circle (BMC) is a weekly program for over 30 San Francisco
Bay Area high and middle school students. The program is administered
by the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute (MSRI), and meets
on Sundays on the UC Berkeley campus. The Bay Area Mathematical
Olympiad (BAMO) is an annual competition among 250 Bay Area students,
consisting of 5 proof-type math problems for 4 hours. The program
was founded in 1998 by Zvezdelina Stankova (then at MSRI, now at
Mills College), Paul Zeitz (University of San Francisco), and Hugo
Rossi (MSRI). Emulating famous Eastern European models, the program
aims at drawing kids to mathematics, preparing them for mathematical
contests, introducing them to the wonders of beautiful mathematical
theories, and encouraging them to undertake futures linked with
mathematics, whether as mathematicians, mathematics educators, economists,
or business tycoons.
and BAMO have been extremely popular during every one of their
five years of existence. One piece of evidence of this success
is the Bay Area representation of three students on the six-member
US team, to tie for second place with Russia (after China) among
80 countries at the International Mathematical Olympiad in 2001,
the aegis of Mathematical Sciences Research Institute and with
the work of Professors Stankova and Zeitz, the BMC and BAMO program
has come of age and established itself as the most prestigious
and sought-after program by students, teachers and parents in
mathematical olympiad and theory training in the Bay Area.
Math Circle (BMC)
heart of the Circle is the Weekly Math Circle lectures. Each Sunday
during the academic year middle and high school students from
the San Francisco Bay Area gather for two hours in the afternoon
on the campus of the University of California at Berkeley for
a lecture on a specific mathematical topic. University professors
and teachers, well-known locally, nationally and even internationally
for their expositional and problem-solving skills, present the
lectures. Frequently, the lectures take the form of an interactive
discussion between the instructor and students, and the students
volunteer to explain solutions and problems to the rest of the
group. The style, organization, level and topic of the lectures
varies from meeting to meeting. Some lectures are aimed at problem-solving
for mathematical competitions. Other lectures introduce the students
to exciting advanced math topics whose level range from elementary
high school to advanced undergraduate. Yet, a third type of lectures
deal with connections between mathematics and other sciences such
as physics, biology, computer science, and economics.
follow a few samples of lectures at BMC 2003:
“How to make a Möbius band out of paper?", by
2. “Accidental Summations” by Joshua Zucker;
3. “The smallest prime factor (and other objects from number
theory)” by Kiran Kedlaya;
4. “Classical Theorems in Geometry” by Maksim Maydanskiy;
5. “Inversion in the Plane” by Zvezdelina Stankova;
6. “Four Points on a Circle” by Tom Davis.
full list of the lectures being given during the 2002-2003 academic
year is appended (see Berkeley Math Circle 2002-2003 Academic
Program), and can be found on the Berkeley
Math Circle website.
The uniqueness and success of the Math Circle is based on the
great variety of instructors: distinguished professors, world-famous
problem solvers, high school teachers, local competition stars
and former circle participants. More detailed personal information
about each instructor can be found on the BMC
feature of the BMC are the Monthly Math Circle contests. Each
month, the students are given an informal take-home 5-problem
contest, which is graded by the Math Circle instructors. Because
the problems tend to be very challenging and the students have
a whole month to work on them, the contest comes closer to emulating
actual scientific research than anything the students are likely
to encounter in high school. The winners receive mathematics books
and certificates of accomplishment. The books are especially chosen
by the instructors to lead the students further into advanced
mathematics and problem solving: students on their own often cannot
afford or do not know how to choose suitable mathematical books.
is a selection procedure or entrance exam to the Berkeley Math
Circle. On average, there are about 30 middle and high school
students, and occasionally, the attendance rises to 50-60 participants.
Teachers and parents are also welcomed to every circle meeting.
The circle was founded in 1998, thus accomplishing its 5th year
of activities in 2002-2003.
Area Mathematical Olympiad (BAMO)
annual BAMO contest is an exam given once a year to students at
participating high schools and middle schools, most of whom are
in the San Francisco Bay Area. The exams are mailed out to the
schools, proctored locally, then returned to be graded by a group
of math circle instructors and educators.
following weekend, there is an awards ceremony, with prizes for
individuals and schools, lunch for everybody, and a math lecture
by a distinguished mathematician. The event has been hosted each
year by a different academic institution in the Bay Area: UC Berkeley
in 1999, University of San Francisco in 2000, Mills College in
2001, San Jose State University in 2002, and Stanford University
in 2003. The awards ceremony has become an annual focal point
for the Bay Area middle and high school activities, where 180-200
students, teachers and parents gather for an exciting day of Mathematics.
The event has been made even more worthwhile by the staggering
sequence of famous lecturers and their fabulous talks:
Alan Weinstein (University of California at Berkeley), “The
Geometry of Random Expectation”, 1999.
Persi Diaconis (Stanford University), “Card Tricks and the
Mathematics of Magic”, 2000.
Ron Graham (University of California at San Diego), “Mathematics
in the 21st Century: Problems and Prospects", 2001.
Joseph Gallian (University of Minessota at Duluth), “Breaking
Driver's Licence Codes”, 2002.
Ravi Vakil (Stanford University), "Why is the Golden Mean
18 individual BAMO prizes are awarded in 3 age groups: 11-12th
grades, 9-10th grades, and 8th grade and below, thus, giving opportunity
to younger participants with less mathematical experience to be
acknowledged for their bold and creative participation in the
Olympiad. There are 3 top team awards and 3 top school awards,
as well as a grand prize award for highest overall BAMO score
and a brilliancy award for an unanticipated original solution.
It is the grand prize that we propose to name for Hilde L. Mosse.
difficulty of the BAMO problems ranges from very easy and accessible
to middle school students problem 1 to a die-hard problem 5, usually
solved by only a handful of students, if any. In each of the 5
years of BAMO, there have
been one or two students with perfect or near perfect scores.
For three years the BAMO grading committee was delighted to award
the brilliancy award for particularly nice solutions to one of
the harder problems.
differs from many other math competitions in that it is proof/essay-style
- the problems demand creative thinking and clearly reasoned arguments,
not just the ability to calculate quickly. BAMO provides a tangible
goal for the students to focus on, and helps achieve an objective
of the Berkeley Math Circle to reach out to an even larger group
of students, since participation in BAMO is not limited to those
who attend the weekly lectures. BAMO has been held each year in
February, with the first one having taken place in 1999 (one year
after the founding of Berkeley Math Circle). The average participation
is 250 students from approximately 45 schools.
extensive website has been developed for posting materials and
resource links to the math circle students, as well as any BAMO
participants and other interested students, parents and teachers:
There one can find lecture notes from the weekly circle meetings
since the circle was conceived in 1998, the monthly contest and
BAMO problems and solutions, information on the USA National Math
Olympiad and other competitions and circles.