On this page you will find out about Maths Teacher Circles:
Maths Teacher Circles envisions a world where the creative, thought-provoking and enjoyable aspects of mathematics can be accessed and experienced by all.
Math Teacher Circles are about enjoying maths with others. This is done by:
- Creating dedicated time and space for exploring mathematical problem solving and building skills as mathematical thinkers
- Connecting primary and secondary maths teachers, mathematicians and other maths enthusiasts
- Building nurturing and inclusive maths learning and teaching communities.
In 2020, Maths Teacher Circles came to Australia for the first time. Since this time, over 350 teachers, academics and other maths enthusiasts from across Australia have come together to share ideas about maths and teaching and to learn from one another.
This celebrated approach to professional development has been running in the United States for approximately 20 years and has a rich history that extends back even further.
Maths Circles were first formed in Russia and Bulgaria in the 1900s as a form of collaborative and non-competitive mathematical enrichment for students.
A unique approach to professional learning
What is it that makes a Maths Teacher Circle unique? Here are five key features that define the Maths Teacher Circles experience:
1. Maths problem solving is at the heart
Maths Teacher Circles give people time to actually do and experience mathematical problem solving. The problems we look at can be puzzles or games, about fascinating mathematical principles or real-world applications.
Photo shows investigating the mathematics of the game SET at a local Maths Teacher Circles session.
2. Tasks are low-floor, high-ceiling
Maths Teacher Circles bring together people of all mathematical backgrounds, capabilities and confidence. So it’s essentially like any heterogeneous group of learners! Importantly, presenters use problems that will be accessible for a wide range of ability levels. We encourage presenters to choose an accessible problem that:
- they are excited and curious about
- does not use fancy maths jargon or symbols
- is relatable to all participants (including primary and secondary backgrounds)
- contains a lot of mathematics and the possibility for many strategies and extensions
Photo shows the Frogs and Toads problem being run at an online Maths Teacher Circle session.
3. Time is made for teaching reflections
A large portion of the time during a session is spent exploring maths problems together. Time is also allocated for thinking about how to adapt and run the problem with students, for example:
- how a problem may be adapted to extend students in need of further challenge
- what strategies can be used to support students who are struggling to get started
- how to support students to form and critique conjectures, and to organise data.
4. Attendance is opt-in
A core intention of Maths Teacher Circles is that they are enjoyable. Part of this is being at a session by choice. Opt-in attendance means individuals have the choice over how they are spending their time learning.
5. Sessions run regularly
By returning to Maths Teacher Circles sessions regularly, participants:
- hear from a range of presenters, including teachers, mathematicians and learning specialists
- make connections between important mathematical ideas
- develop and refine their pedagogical practice over time
- implement new ideas in the classroom, reflect and then build on them at subsequent sessions
- become part of a learning community focused on understanding and teaching mathematics.
Michaela is a maths educator and avid learner. After searching for ways to make maths professional learning more meaningful, she founded Maths Teacher Circles in Australia. Michaela is also a past president of the Mathematical Association of Victoria, has taught at secondary schools in rural and urban areas and now works closely with teachers throughout Australia. At heart, Michaela is a maths enthusiast, with a deep commitment to helping others discover the beautiful and joyful side of mathematics.
Alex is a primary educator who understands the challenges of maths teaching as a primary generalist. Since leaving the classroom, she has worked on maths research and development projects for a range of organisations. Alex's current work focuses on learning cultures where every learner and educator sees themselves as capable mathematicians. As a formerly anxious maths student and teacher herself, Alex loves sharing powerful maths ideas and teaching pedagogies encountered in recent years – experiences that have helped make teaching maths and numeracy her passion.
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