The Black Hills State University Mathematics Department recently received a $6,000 grant from the Dolciani Mathematics Enrichment Grants Program for the formation of the Black Hills Math Circle (BHMC). The Mary P. Dolciani Halloran Foundation provides funding for the Mathematical Association of America (MAA) to award grants for projects designed to develop mathematical enrichment programs for students in middle school or high school.

The BHMC will be open to all interested high school students in Spearfish and in neighboring communities in South Dakota and Wyoming. The program has three main goals: to increase the interest of a large number of high school students in mathematics by exposing them to a diverse collection of mathematical topics that are not included in the high school curriculum; to build students' problem solving abilities and their confidence in these abilities; and to increase the number and quality of students from the area who will continue to study mathematics in higher education.

To accomplish these goals, the BHMC activities will consist primarily of a regular meeting to be held every other weekend at BHSU. The meetings will typically adhere to the following schedule: an informal discussion of mathematical topics; an interactive presentation of new mathematical material by a university or high school faculty member or university math students; group problem solving sessions on the topic of the presentation; and concluding remarks by BHMC organizers.
Parthasarathi Nag, associate professor of mathematics at BHSU, and Michael Barrus, assistant professor of mathematics at BHSU, serve as the co-principal investigators of the grant and co-directors of the BHMC. The two professors, who have competed in numerous mathematical and problem solving competitions and have studied at prestigious universities, will bring significant experiences and achievements to the Black Hills Math Circle.

Nag and Barrus plan to recruit speakers for the group from local universities, including BHSU and the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology. Topics for presentations will be chosen from the presenters' areas of interest and from successful activities held in other math circles. Among others, topics for the 2011-2012 academic school year are expected to include two-player deterministic games; properties of the Stern sequence; the Fibonacci numbers and related sequences; geometry in four dimensions; puzzles from graph theory; and problems in non-Euclidean geometries. Topics will be chosen from a wide variety of traditional and recreational mathematics and will be suitable for high school students.

The BHMC will provide practice for students in a variety of problem solving strategies through a diverse selection of challenges. Students will also have the chance to meet other mathematically talented youth from the area and form relationships in an environment that fosters social interaction. The program will also give BHSU mathematics students exposure to teaching by allowing them to assist with leading the group.

For more information on the Black Hills Math Circle, contact Nag at 642-6507 or email P.Nag@BHSU.edu.