The Shippensburg Area Math Circle, an extracurricular program at Shippensburg University for elementary students interested in expanding their mathematics skills, recently received a second grant through the National Association of Math Circles (NAMC) to support its programming in the 2016–17 academic year.

NAMC’s Math Circle–Mentorship and Partnership program assists student math circles like the one at SU, which started as a pilot project at Grace B. Luhrs University Elementary School in 2014. Funding for the math circle grants comes from the National Security Agency, the National Science Foundation and the Clowes Foundation.

The local math circle is open to fourth- and fifth graders, including homeschooled students, who enjoy math and want the challenge of trying to solve interesting problems outside their usual curriculum. It also receives financial support from the parent-teacher organizations at Luhrs Elementary and Shippensburg Area Intermediate School and from the SU math department, along with contributions from parents.

Drs. Lance Bryant and Sarah Bryant, math professors at SU and founders of the math circle, said their role with the students is more fellow learner than teacher. “Every math problem we do is really engaging,” Lance Bryant said. “We don’t always discover answers to all the questions that may arise, and that’s OK.”

University students also participate in the math circle, which adds to the elementary students’ enjoyment, he said. “Not only are they connecting with other students their age who want to learn more about math, but also with university students who share their excitement and energy.”

Being part of NAMC’s mentorship program “gives our students a connection to a larger community,” Sarah Bryant said. “We are able to tap into additional resources that really benefit them and knowing there are other students just like them across the country is exciting for them.”