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Summing it all up

Math appeals to young & old

Math appeals to young & old

  • 05 Aug 2015

The George Boole 200 Bicentenary Celebrations have worked closely with Math Circles Ireland to develop free Boolean math lessons for Boole2School. Learn more about UCC Professor Anca Mustata, a leading voice in Math Circles Ireland.

When Anca Mustata arrived in Ireland from Romania in 2007, she was surprised to discover that her daughter’s school had no extra-curricular maths activities. It seemed that maths were not a prized skill among children (and certainly not cool). Anca, a lecturer in mathematical sciences in UCC, was shocked. In Romania, children participated in Maths Circles – volunteer-led classes that fostered their natural curiosity and interest in maths. Young people competed in Maths Olympiads, and maths were an enormous part of their lives. Anca says she “started to wonder – were children truly being given the opportunity to experience the beauty of maths?”

Following a talk she gave in UCC during Maths Week 2010, collaborators such as David Goulding  of the Tyndall National Institute and Julie O’Donovan of Cork Institute of Technology approached Anca about setting up an Irish version of maths circles - and Maths Circles Ireland was born.

The first maths circle ran in the North Monastery secondary school, with great success. A host of volunteer tutors, many of them UCC students, began running maths circles in schools around Cork.

Maths Circles are highly collaborative efforts, and the lessons are fun and interactive, involving puzzles and practical games. Anca says maths circles have an ethos of “sharing in the joy of student discovery,” and many former maths circles students later become volunteer teachers – hence the “circular” nature of the project.

Maths Circles construct a network of support for students, but also help teachers. Lessons from maths circles are freely available online, so any school can begin their own maths circle.

Since 2010, primary and secondary schools around Ireland have begun to set up maths circles using the lessons and resources.  At the last count, over 30 schools in Cork alone had set up a maths circle. Today, Anca is delighted to see maths circles as a “living process” that is growing naturally, and encourages anyone interested in setting up a maths circle to email and visit

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