The Berkeley Math Circle


To view the frequently asked questions, you may either scroll down and look at each one or select a question below:


How is the Berkeley Math Circle structured?

The Berkeley Math Circle is divided into two groups: BMC-Upper and BMC-Elementary.

The BMC-Upper is organized by Zvezdelina Stankova, and it consists of three levels:

  1. BMC-Beginners: Recommended for grades 4-6
  2. BMC-Intermediate: Recommended for grades 7-8
  3. BMC-Advanced: Recommended for grades 9-12

The BMC-Elementary is organized by Laura Givental, and it consists of two levels:

  1. BMC Elementary I: For grades 1-2
  2. BMC Elementary II: For grades 3-4

What is the difference between Berkeley Math Circle and Math Taught the Right Way?

Brief comparison between MTRW and BMC-Upper

1. MTRW (Mondays 5-8pm), grades 6-12

This program is designed to teach students the mathematics that they are supposed to learn at school in a systematic way (unfortunately, typically, US middle schools do NOT offer anything even close to that). Two program has three classes every week. Two classes will be algebra and geometry, taught with breadth and in depth following one of the leading Eastern European models from Bulgaria. The third class will resemble a mini-Math Circle session, though not as challenging, where students learn to think and write mathematics through problem solving. For each class, there are regular weekly homeworks, pre-tests and final exams (all of which will be graded). Each class has the same teacher throughout the semester. MTRW requires hard work and dedication. It will feel like three intense math classes every week, each covering material that would otherwise be covered in 2 regular classes in school. MTRW's fee for fall 2018 is about $640 (for the three classes), plus about $50 for textbooks.

2. BMC-Upper (Wednesdays evening), grades 5-12

The Math Circle sessions are designed to expose students to mathematics that they will never experience in school, and to a large extent in college. BMC assumes that the students already have mastered the material taught at or equivalent to MTRW. During circle sessions, students will experience mathematics at a higher level of abstraction and difficulty. For example, often Beginners sessions may study material beyond high school while Advanced sessions will be exposed to current research. There are no regular homework or assessments, although there are monthly contests and a couple of national and regional math olympiads will be offered throughout the year. Speakers will vary frequently. Topics will also vary. Students are expected to take their own class notes. BMC requires independent motivation and keen interest and talent in mathematics. BMC will feel more like attending a lecture series every week.

How do I apply to the Berkeley Math Circle and/or Math Taught the Right Way?

New students must submit an application, which are made available every semester, to the Berkeley Math Circle. Admission to the Circle has become a selective process. Detailed application instructions can be found in our "Apply to BMC" page when the applications are released at the end of each semester. We do not have a waiting list. Please note that applying to BMC Elementary (Grades 1-4) is separate from BMC Upper, and BMC Elementary is organized by Laura Givental - see contact page.

  • Application for the Spring semester will generally open by the previous Thanksgiving. (For example, the Spring 2019 semester applications will open by Thanksgiving 2018)
  • Application for the Fall semester will generally open by the previous UC Berkeley Spring Break.

Interested students must submit all required components in the application process found in the "Apply to BMC" page and must answer essay questions by themselves. The BMC has a fee of $186 per semester, which must be written out as a check payable to "United Math Circle Foundation". The application, transcript, and payment are due by the last session of the Circle in the semester. One may submit the application by mail or slide it under our office at room 713 Evans Hall, UC Berkeley.

You may mail in the check and application to the following address:

Berkeley Math Circle 
Attn: Zvezdelina Stankova 
Department of Mathematics 
Room 970, Evans Hall 
University of California at Berkeley 
Berkeley, CA 94720-3840 

Math Taught the Right Way applications close very quickly, and are made available around the same time as Berkeley Math Circle Upper Applications. Math Taught the Right Way application information can be found on the Math Taught the Right Way page of the website and the Apply page on the website. 

Can I join the BMC now? I missed the deadline for applying.

Generally, the seats for the Berkeley Math Circle are completely full after the deadline for applying. However, students may email the BMC Assistant, Ryan Quan, around mid-semester, if any spots are open. If this is the case, we will request that you submit an application along with a check of $186 made out to the "United Math Circle Foundation".

When and where are the BMC sessions held?

The Berkeley Math Circle is held every Wednesday evening during the Academic Year of UC Berkeley.

  • BMC-Beginners I meet from 5:00PM to 6:20PM at room 1015 of Evans Hall. 
  • Beginners II meet from 6:30PM to 8:00PM at room 1015 of Evans Hall. 
  • BMC-Intermediate I meet from 6:10 PM to 7:55 PM at room 597 of Evans Hall. 
  • BMC-Intermediate II meet from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM at room 740 of Evans Hall. 
  • BMC-Advanced meet from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM at room 736 of Evans Hall. 

The BMC-Upper office is located at room 714 of Evans Hall. If you have any questions, we strongly encourage you to visit our office during office hours, posted on the contact page.

What kind of sessions should I expect at the BMC?

The sessions held at the Circle is far beyond what is taught in schools! We have an informal 30% rule that first year students are typically expected to understand around thirty-percent of what is covered in the session. This percentage will increase the following year, and students generally master the material after around 3 years. Students who have been in a level for at least 3 years are expected to move on to the next level.

Each session of the Berkeley Math Circle is led by our wonderful instructors. The topics are chosen by their mathematical area of interest. Typically, BMC-Beginners have 3 or 4 sessions led by the same instructor, while BMC-Intermediate and BMC-Advanced may cover different topics by different instructors each week.

Is there a mandatory textbook for the Circle?

No, there is no mandatory textbook for the Circle. Often, instructors have handouts for their sessions, which will be posted on our "Calendar" page if/when they become available. If you have missed a session or lost the handout, please download a copy from our "Calendar" page.

We typically recommend new students to the Circle to purchase "A Decade of the Berkeley Math Circle" (price: $20, exact cash only), which contains chapters that contain sessions from the early ages of the Berkeley Math Circle. You may purchase this book at our office at room 714, Evans Hall during posted office hours (see contact page).

How can parents get involved in helping the Berkeley Math Circle?

BMC Assistant will ask for parent volunteers via email a week before each semester. If you are a math enthusiast who wish to help out and listen in on the sessions, please do not hesitate to contact the BMC Assistant. We have been very fortunate to have at least a couple of parents in each level to help us out! Parent volunteers, or "room parents", are the only parents allowed in the sessions due to the large number of students.

Please do not bring any food for other students, as there were several allergic reactions in the past. You are welcome to bring your own snack during break.

I am a current student/parent at the Circle. How can I find information about math camps/competitions?

BMC Assistant sends out weekly emails to enrolled students and parents regarding upcoming math talks, competitions, etcs. Please read the "BMC Weekly" to find this information!

How can I donate to the Berkeley Math Circle?

You may donate to the Berkeley Math Circle by mailing us a check to the "United Math Circles Foundation". Thank you very much!