May 21 2016

OPINION: Searching for Math Programs for Gifted K12 Students?

Examples of supplemental math programs –

The father of a family who recently moved to Piedmont from another State contacted me to help him find Math programs to supplement PUSD [Piedmont Unified School District] education. He was aware of the Khan Academy, but would like to put his 9 year old in a group of like-minded students led by a professional teacher.

I gathered the following information through Elwyn Berlekamp, a Piedmont long time resident and retired Math UC Berkeley Professor.

There are several possibilities for such students. 1) and 2) are focussed on extra-curricular math rather than attempting to directly reinforce whatever happens in the regular school curricula.

  1. Berkeley Math Circle. One evening meeting every week on Berkeley campus. Has several dozen regular students, mostly 5th thru 10th graders, organized in three separate tracks with transferring in between as appropriate. The book “Circle in a box” is recommended reading for parents and students interested in math circles.
  2. Firecracker Math, a more personalized Piedmont-centric program. Classes are held at the Kehilla Community Synagogue. The founder is Eva Levine who earned an MS in applied mathematics from the Moscow Petrochemical University.
  3. Proof School. That’s a private junior high school now located at 555 Post Street in San Francisco (not cheap). They may be moving to another location in downtown SF (hopefully nearer to BART) sometime next year. They teach a full curriculum including all subjects, with a very strong emphasis on math. Their headmaster is Sam Vandervelde, who was the author of the book on how to organize a math circle; it’s been a big force in the formation of over 100 math circles nationwide in the past decade since the first circle started in Berkeley.
  4. Julia Robinson Mathematics Festivals and Celebration of Mind events. These attract both 6th graders and younger kids. But they are isolated one-day or half-day events. There are a handful of them scattered throughout the Bay Area throughout the year.

1) and 3) may already be winding down for the summer. Most years there is a 2 to 3 week intensive summer program at the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute (MSRI) mostly focussed on high school Olympiad students.

I hope this information is helpful to our community.

Bernard Pech, Piedmont Resident

Editors’ Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.

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