What's a Math Circle?

Math Circles began over 100 years ago in Bulgaria and spread through Eastern Europe,
Russia and Asia before finally coming to the US a mere 20 years ago. All Math Circles take a “problem-discussion approach to math education” and expose young students to professional
mathematicians and mathematical scientists. Some participate in math competitions and/or
hold their own contests.

Well, then, what's a Math Ellipse?

A circle is a special case of an ellipse. Ellipses have a property called eccentricity, which
measures their deviation from roundness. The eccentricity is always a positive number,
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. And if you already know all that, there will be plenty of elliptical challenges for you, too.

Whom is it for?

The high school Santa Barbara Math Ellipse is open to any interested student, including homeschoolers, in Grades 9-12 from Santa Barbara County. Advanced 8th graders may
attend with permission of the organizer.


The general goal of Math Circles is to engage highly-motivated students in the exploration of mathematical concepts 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.

Another purpose of the Santa Barbara Math Ellipse is to prepare students to participate in ARML, a very challenging national high school math competition. Unlike most math competitions, ARML teams are region-based rather than school-based, so this endeavor allows bright students from different local schools to work together with similar students from other schools.

When and Where is it?

Meetings will generally be held twice a month on weekends, from approximately 12:32* to 3:15 p.m., September through May. Most meetings will be held at SB Family School in Goleta but some will be located on the campus of UCSB. 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 $50 (about 10% lower than the new $20/hour rate). In the past, there
has been no charge for meetings not attended, provided that sufficient advance notice was given, but last-minute scheduling has become too onerous for all of us, so a new atttendance policy is under construction. Scholarships based on both need and merit are available.

* After several years of 3-hour meetings, which we sometimes felt were too long, one year we tried 2-hour meetings, but we often felt they were too short. So a few years ago, true to our spirit of eccentricity, we switched to e-hour meetings, at the suggestion of a student who is now a graduate of Caltech. Thus, the starting time is actually 12:31.90309...  and the first challenge is to arrive precisely on time. :-)