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FAQ

What is SDMC? Is it like the math club at school? It's an understandable comparison to make, and there are similarities, but there are important differences. SDMC has a strategic mission of reaching the most able and highest achieving mathematics students in the greater San Diego area, and to provide them with instruction and challenges that develop their problem-solving skills. In many cases, SDMC students have few intellectual peers in their traditional schools; for these students SDMC provides an intellectual peer group unlike anything in their school experience.

Why do we have to register? There are many reasons, but prominent among them are communications and logistics. SDMC makes strong use of electronic communications, so we need to know how to communicate with you. SDMC involves hundreds of individuals who participate in different ways; planning for such a large and diverse group would be unmanageable without registration.

Why do we have to complete the liability waiver? Almost all of SDMC's activities take place on the campus of UCSD. The waiver serves a legal need perceived by the university to limit its liability related to our presence on campus.

What is the age range of students who may participate in SDMC? Students must be in one of the grades 5 through 12 as enrolled in school.

My 4th grade student is in accelerated math. Why is he/she not accepted into SDMC? Our age cutoff at grade 5 has less to do with math ability than with other factors such as maturity, social mix, class size, and classroom order.

Does SDMC have any program for those younger children? No and yes. No, as explained above, we are not able to accommodate younger children into our regular on-site activities at UCSD. However, we do attempt to provide access to occasional special events that may be appropriate for younger children.  These include the AMC 8, Math Kangaroo, and the World Education Games.

My student is in 11th/12th grade; is it too late for him/her to join SDMC? Students may join SDMC at any grade level; we find, however, that most of our active juniors and seniors are students who have participated regularly for a number of years and have grown significantly in ability and competitiveness because of it. Consequently, SDMC's activities serving the needs of these students tend to be far more challenging than what students normally experience in school. It is common for students joining SDMC for the first time as a junior or senior find this differential quite daunting.

Is there an admissions or qualifying exam? No. Apart from the minimum age requirement, we have no quantitative admissions criteria.  We use a flexible form-based application through which we try to learn as much as we can about prospective students and take a broad view.

My student can't come to math circle every weekend. Can he/she still attend? Yes! Most math circle students are involved in numerous positive activities and conflicts are inevitable. There are certain fixed events you should try to plan around, but for the most part occasional absences are not a problem.

How much does SDMC cost? Is there a fee? There is no fee charged to participate in SDMC; however, SDMC definitely costs money. SDMC depends strongly on financial contributions from the families of participating students. Please visit our donations area to learn more and contribute.

Which ability group is the right one? SDMC is all about challenge. We advise students to place themselves in the group where they find the going challenging, but at the end of the day still learn something. Being able to solve most of the problems most of the time is a sure sign of the need to "move up". Visit our Student Groups section for more information about ability groups.

Who teaches at SDMC? SDMC does not have a "faculty" per se. Our instructors include mathematicians, scientists, engineers, and IT professionals. Some are professors, some are parents with approrpiate expertise, some are recruited and some volunteer. Some are graduate students, and in some circumstances, select SDMC students are called upon to take some of the responsibilities of leadership themselves. Visit our Instructor page for more information.

Why competitions? No SDMC student is required to participate in competitions. We find, however, that many SDMC students enjoy the personal challenge and the spirit of compeition with their peers, both locally and beyond San Diego. There is a synergy between the competitions available to students and the activities that take place within SDMC; the competitions motivate students to sharpen their problem-solving abilities and provide independent validation of their efforts.

What are competition scores used for? High scores can qualify students for awards or to advance to higher levels of national competition. High scores on certain competitions can be factors in college admissions. Within SDMC, we offer awards for our internal competitions, and we take competition scores into consideration for certain invitation-only activities limited to our most highly-qualified students.

What does it mean that SDMC is a "Higher Education Site" for the AMC? The term "Higher Education Site" is used by the American Mathematics Competitions to designate a limited number of sites, usually at colleges or universities, where the AMC competitions can be administered as a last option for students who do not otherwise have an opportunity to participate at their school or as a visitor at a neighboring school. SDMC is that Higher Education Site in San Diego and we administer the AMC 8, AMC 10, AMC 12, AIME, and USAMO for San Diego area students as a community service.

Why is there no calculus at SDMC? It may seem paradoxical at first that SDMC would teach advanced mathematics to advanced students, yet generally avoid calculus. One reason is that the mix of students in our ability groups is such that we cannot presume a knowledge of calculus. A more strategic reason, however, is that SDMC is neutral with respect to acceleration; i.e., we do not "school" students in "school" subjects in order to facilitiate acceleration in school.

What's wrong with acceleration? Perhaps nothing - this is a bigger question than can be answered briefly - but it has the potential to become problematic; there can be difficulties arising from scheduling, logistics, credits and transcripts, social integration, maturity, time management, and stress. SDMC offers an alternative to acceleration by building upon the base of precalculus mathematics taught in school to develop challenging and interesting topics outside of the traditional high school curriculum.

I've heard that SDMC also is involved with physics. Why? The most practical answer is that our students asked for it. Many SDMC students are not only some of the best mathematics students around, they are also some of the best science students. Physics is the science most closely allied to mathematics and depends greatly on mathematics, including calculus, for sound understanding.

I thought SDMC didn't teach calculus. Why is calculus stressed in SDMC's physics activities? Isn't this inconsistent? Actually, it is completely consistent philosophically. The heart of math circle philosophy is about cultivating sound reasoning and promoting problem solving abilities. This can be done very effectively in mathematics without creating acceleration problems by advancing students into calculus. On the other hand, mathematics - and most importantly calculus - is the language of physics; it is not possible to cultivate sound reasoning in physics without at least a basic understanding of calculus, and it is not possible to deal with anything but the most basic problem solving in physics without at least a basic functional foundation in calculus.