The Berkeley Math Circle


The Berkeley Math Circle works with over 500 students all over from Bay Area. The program is supported through UC Berkeley Math, Statistics and Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) Department, MSRI, Simons' Institute and parents' donations. BMC-Upper (grades 5 through 12) meets on Wednesday evenings on the UC Berkeley campus.  BMC-Elementary,, (grades 1 through 4) started in 2009, and is meant to challenge younger minds . Math Taught the Right Way, a program for 150+ students meets on Monday evenings, and emphasizes how to  "read and write mathematics" as the basis for communicating mathematics; it is an intellectually demanding course that does NOT conform to generic U.S. labels of math classes (allowing students to significantly surpass the regular U.S. curriculum).

Math circles originated in Hungary more than a century ago. They soon spread over Eastern Europe and Asia, and since then have produced many of the great scientists from those parts of the world, in mathematics and in other disciplines. The math circles also led eventually to the start of many national and international math contests, including the International Mathematical Olympiad (IMO) in 1959 in Romania. It is widely believed that it is the presence of these circles that has enabled the youth of countries such as Russia, Bulgaria and Romania on the average to outperform the United States at the IMO. 

Given the success of math circles in Russia and Eastern Europe, it is surprising that it has taken so long for the United States to develop similar programs. The Berkeley Math Circle was founded in 1998 to begin to correct this situation. The San Francisco Bay Area and Berkeley in particular were natural choices for the site of a math circle, both because of the large number of talented high school students in the area, and because of the proximity of world-class institutions such as UC Berkeley from which experienced lecturers could be drawn. 

Although it has existed since 1998, the Berkeley Math Circle has become known to tens of thousands of people in the San Francisco Bay Area and across the country, through both word-of-mouth and the media. The program's success has been phenomenal; for instance, in year 2010-2011, about 200 students from approximately 50+ schools (35% of them girls) participated in the BMC, contributing to the excellent visibility of BMC with K-12 schools in the U.S. and to the outside world by virtue of previous students' positive experiences. We frequently receive requests from schools and universities across the U.S. and abroad for help in setting up their own circles. Circles have been started in San Jose, Stanford, Marin, San Francisco, Oakland and other locations throughout the Bay Area. Each year the majority of the Berkeley Math Circle students participate in the Bay Area Math Olympiad. About a hundred mathematics teachers, researchers, graduate and undergraduate students, as well as professionals from related areas in industry, are involved in the Bay Area math circles and BAMO each year. 

The success of Berkeley Math Circle in identifying and fostering talent is striking.

For example, in just one year, 2010-2011, our alumnus BMC student Evan O'Dorney (freshman at Harvard University in fall 2011), won the Intel Science Talent Search, received a perfect score on the USAMO, and earned the second highest score in the world -- and a gold medal! -- at the International Mathematical Olympiad in 2010 (held in Kazakhstan). He received a congratulatory phone call from President Obama in summer 2010, and met with him in person in spring 2011 after winning the Intel Science Talent Search. He also met with President Bush in 2007, upon winning the National Spelling Bee. He won twice the national contest "Who Wants to be a Mathematician" in 2010 and 2011, organized by the American Mathematical Society. Evan O'Dorney recently graduated from Harvard and is attending a one year program at Cambridge to complete Part III of Cambridge's Mathematical Tripos. Evan plans to pursue his PhD at Princeton the following year. Evan has participated in BMC for 5 years; he has lead a number of sessions himself, and has coordinated and composed the Monthly Contest for several years.



Alumnus Evan Chen is the twice winner of the USA Junior Math Olympiad (USAJMO), Bay Area Math Olympiad (BAMO) 2012 grand prize winner with a perfect score in the senior division, and winner of the Harvey-Mudd Math Contest in 2012. He has already taken "MATH H113: Honors Abstract Algebra" at UC Berkeley and participated in the prestigious Research Science Institute at MIT in the summer of 2013. Similarly, Evan has helped with the BMC the past few years. He is currently a BMC Monthly Contest coordinator and composer. 

He won a gold medal in the International Mathematical Olympiad (IMO) over the summer of 2014! He represented the Taiwanese team (which came in 3rd). Evan actually came in second at the USAMO earlier that year, the final round of the USA Olympiad. Evan finished his freshman year of college at Harvard and is now starting his sophomore year at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Evan will be in contact with the BMC through his Monthly Contest problems.

He was among the top 3 winners awarded with Akami Foundation Scholarship! Even more astonishingly, he qualified at the same time on the Taiwanese team and participated in the International Mathematical Olympiad this summer in Cape Town, South Africa, from July 3-13 , 2014.

A familiar face at the Circle, Evan Chen, has recently published Euclidean Geometry in Math Olympiads through the Mathematical Association of America while still attending MIT. You can read more about his book here.

Evan Chen graduated from lrvington High School in Fremont, CA. Evan earned a Gold medal in the 2013 Asian-Pacific Math Olympiad, and will be participating on the Taiwan team at the 2014 lnternational Mathematical Olympiad (lMO). He enjoys programming, typesetting documents in LaTeX, and playing StarCraft on the nights before major contests. Evan applies his skill as a competitor in mathematical competitions to writing mathematical problems. Evan thanks his teachers, Miss Chiu and Mrs. Rothfuss, for their continual support and Dr. Zvezda Stankova, of the Berkeley Math Circle, for her invaluable mentorship. lt is noteworthy that Evan took this USA Mathematical Olympiad (USAMO) in Taiwan from 12:30 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. while in Taiwan.

Laura Pierson (11th grader) is the BAMO 2012 grand prize winner with a perfect score in the junior division and winner of the USAJMO as a 6th and 10th grader. She also won silver medals at the World and European Girls Math Olympiads in 2012/13 in China and Luxembourg as a 7th grader (youngest member of the US team) and participated in the prestigious USA/Canada Math Camp in summer 2013. She also took Calculus II and MATH 110 at UCB as a 7th grader in 2012-2013 and scored highest among the hundreds of undergraduates, and skipped 8th grade to be accepted to College Prep in Oakland as a 9th grader.

Arav Karighattam (5th grader, 10-year old) has qualified for AIME 2013 as a 4th grader (second round of the national US math olympiad) and received honorable mention at the BAMO 2012, a proof-essay style problems for up to 8th grades. He took upper-division Combinatorics and Number Theory courses at UC Davis with stellar performance, and participated in the AwesomeMath Summer Program at UC Santa Cruz for middle/high school students as a 4th grader.


Likewise, there are many talented students currently in the BMC:


Zach (in black shirt) and Ave (in black cardigan), seasoned circlers, return to BMC with Bronze Award (for Zach) and Merit Award (for Ave), in the individual rounds at the World Mathematics Team Championship, held in Thailand in November 2017.