Circles of math

By By Paige Fieldsted

By Paige Fieldsted

Every Wednesday afternoon from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., 20 to 30 high school students from around the Salt Lake Valley can be found in the LeRoy Cowles Building working vigorously on challenging math problems.

With the help of several faculty members and graduate students, high school students are able to study math concepts that students would not normally see at the high school level.

The Utah Math Circle is in its sixth year and is looking to get high school students interested in math early on in their educational careers.

“The basic idea of the math circle is to give young, imaginative minds something mathematical to do (and) that they will find it intriguing — even irresistible,” said Hugo Rossi, founder of the math circle and emeritus professor at the U.

The circle was established in response to the standards of high school math curricula.

“High school math is good at covering some things, but doesn’t even address other things,” said Peter Trapa, director of the math circle

The math circle is looking to change the way students think about math, especially the math they learn in high school.

“We want students to think about math problems for a long period of time,” Trapa said, “not just 10 seconds and moving on, like is emphasized in high school.”

Students are usually given two or three problems to solve during the two-hour session. The goal is to get students to think about one problem for an hour or more.

“Mathematicians think about the same problem for years,” Trapa said. “We want students to get into that kind of mindset.”

The math circle is not only beneficial to high school students interested in math, but to the university, as well.

“What we hope to accomplish with our Utah Math Circle is to bring kids who like to solve problems to the U and keep them in science programs,” Rossi said.

The math circle is also looking to involve as many undergraduate and graduate students as possible.

Scott Crofts, a graduate student involved with the math circle, said, “I would encourage other math majors to become involved in math circle because it is one of the few times where you can be around a group of students who actually want to learn math just because they think it is fun.”

Kim Peterson

Alessandro Gondolo, a Skyline High School student, answers a question about using algorithms to create looping number patterns Wednesday in the LeRoy Cowles Building as a part of the Utah Math Circle.