Campus News

Open Your Mind to Math

LEXINGTON, Ky. (August 5, 2010) –For some students, the challenges of high school geometry, trigonometry or even calculus just aren’t enough.

University of Kentucky mathematics professors Russell Brown and Benjamin Braun saw the need to open the minds of aspiring mathematicians and decided to solve the problem.

After conducting a successful pilot program on UK's campus last year, the duo plans to launch the Central Kentucky Math Circles (CKMC) this fall.

"It's basically going to be an open, problem-based, exploratory session, kind of like free-writing or a painting master class," said Braun. "The sessions will contain feedback, mutual reinforcement and problem solving."

A math circle is an enrichment program for high-schoolers with an interest in mathematics, allowing students to learn concepts beyond what is covered in traditional course work. Sessions will allow students to develop the mathematical topics by working on a series of problems. Students will be given the opportunity to work through examples, discover patterns, formulate conjectures and determine whether or not these conjectures are true.

"We'll be showing high school students what mathematicians do," explained Brown. "We'll talk about the unsolved problems in mathematics and the tools to approach questions that people don't know how to answer."

Meetings will be led by mathematics faculty and graduate students from UK, Asbury University, Centre College, Eastern Kentucky University and Transylvania University.

Although math circles originated in Hungary more than a century ago and quickly spread throughout Eastern Europe and Asia, the United States didn't catch on until The Berkeley Math Circle was founded in 1998. UK has been involved in many mathematics outreach activities in the past, said Brown, but it was Braun's previous experience coordinating a math circle at Washington University in St. Louis that energized faculty to lead the charge in Central Kentucky.

"Kentucky needs this," Braun said. "Students will be in control of the discussion, and high achievers in math and science are genuinely interested in new information and problems to solve."

Rising Tates Creek High School senior Michael Druggan participated in UK's math circle pilot program last year. The aspiring mathematician found the meetings helpful, as well as interesting. "We went more in-depth, discussing topics and problems that wouldn’t be covered in a normal math class," he said.  Druggan also found the circle good for meeting other kids interested in math.

"We're going to offer more opportunities than what you get to in high school," added Brown. "High-schoolers will come into direct contact with professional mathematicians, as well as students with similar interests to their own."

Any high school student with an interest in mathematics is welcome to join. No calculators, no tutoring, no homework and no fees. "Students don't have the opportunity for open exploration of math," said Braun. "These meetings will have less structure than in the classroom."

Brown and Braun will hold an organizational meeting at 7 p.m. Monday, August 16, in Room 102 of the White Hall Classroom Building on UK's campus.

The CKMC will meet every two to three weeks on Sunday afternoons from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Math House on 417 Columbia Ave.

For more information on the CKMC, please contact Brown at or 859-257 3951 or visit