Activity Collections for Math Student Circles

Math Student Circles (MSCs) are groups of students who meet regularly with mathematics professionals to engage in problem solving. Since their beginnings as primarily competition-focused programs, MSCs in the U.S. have grown into a popular form of mathematics enrichment for students at all grade levels. Many are run as after-school programs serving students from socioeconomically disadvantaged schools (Long, Pantano, White, & Wiegers, 2017). 

Pedagogically, MSC facilitators should foster an enjoyment of mathematical thinking  through creating a highly engaging, collaborative, supportive Math Circle culture that supports participation by all. Problems should be low floor, high ceiling, and should promote deep conceptual thinking and the development of mathematical habits of mind. The SF Math Circle has a wonderful description of  their pedagogical approach. Organizers should also check out our MSC Toolkit for additional tips.

Below you’ll find collections of some of our favorite Math Student Circle activities! 

Great Starter Activities for Math Student Circles

The Dollar Game

A group of people, some that just met, have a dilemma. Some people owe money and some have money. Problem is that only people that know each other, connected by nodes, can give or lend a dollar. But they must give each person they know a dollar, even if that...

Mondrian Art Puzzles

You’re Mondrian’s mathematical boss. Instead of allowing Mondrian to randomly draw rectangles and colors -you lay out requirements: 1) Mondrian must cover an N by N canvas entirely with rectangles. 2) Every rectangle in the painting must have different dimensions. 3) Mondrian must use as few colors as possible, and...

Mind Reading With Math

For the Math Mind Reading Trick, you’ll need a volunteer who’s willing to have their mind read. The person performing the trick holds out the four cards and askes their volunteer to pick a number (whole numbers only, no fractions allowed!) between 1 and 15 and keep it a secret....

Queen’s Move

Students will explore a game between two players moving a chess Queen from place to place on a square grid. The Queen may move any number of spaces to the left, any number of spaces downward, and any number of spaces on the downward-left pointing diagonal. Each player takes turns...

Bubbling Cauldrons

Place our numbers into the cauldrons in ascending order – you can choose which cauldron each one goes in. However, if two numbers in one cauldron add up to a third number in that same cauldron, they bubble up and cause an explosion! This means that all the numbers, leave...


Skyscrapers come in so many different sizes! Sometimes you can’t see small skyscrapers if tall ones are in front of them. Using clues about how many skyscrapers you can see from each side you look at them, can you figure out the layout of the entire city?


Merriam Webster defines gerrymandering as “the practice of dividing or arranging a territorial unit into election districts in a way that gives one political party an unfair advantage in elections.” This activity tries to make sense of that definition using a few examples.