What's a Math Circle?

Math Circles began over 100 years ago in Eastern Europe, and spread through Russia and Asia before finally coming to the US about 30 years ago and to Santa Barbara almost 15 years ago.

All Math Circles take a “problem-discussion approach to math education,” most expose young students to mathematicians and/or related professionals, and some participate in math
competitions and/or hold their own contests. (Our upper elementary school one will do a lot of the first, a little of the second, and even less of the third.)

Well, then, what's a Math Ellipse?

A circle is a special case of an ellipse. Ellipses have a property called eccentricity, which
measures how elongated they are. The eccentricity is always a positive number between
zero and one, except that perfect circles have an eccentricity of zero. (Our logo above has an eccentricity of 0.8855, whereas the eccentricity of the earth's orbit around the sun is 0.0017.)

So a Math Ellipse is an eccentric Math Circle. Since Santa Barbarians tend to be somewhat eccentric, we thought it would be appropriate to call our Math Circle a Math Ellipse.

If you don't know what an ellipse is or what eccentricity is, don't worry – you'll learn all that
and more at the first meeting.

Whom is it for?

The Upper Elementary School Santa Barbara Math Ellipse is open to any interested student, including homeschoolers, in Grades 4-6. Motivated, advanced younger students may also attend with permission of the organizer.


The general goal of Math Circles is to engage highly-motivated students in the exploration of intriguing mathematical topics that are beyond the standard curriculum. This is done in a collaborative environment fostering the development of creative thinking skills through problem solving. Such skills are applicable not only to mathematical research but to careers in science
and engineering as well as other areas of life.

As an important by-product, Math Circles also provide opportunities for kids who enjoy math to socialize with similarly inclined kids in a relatively informal educational environment.

When and Where is it?

Meetings are held once a week on a weekday afternoon, from 3:30 to 5:00 p.m., approximately.
You will be given the exact location of the meetings after your registration form is received.

How much does it cost?

The cost per meeting is $36 ($24/hour).
Scholarships based on both need and merit are available.