Meet the student at the center of Math Circles program
August 19, 2019
What do one motivated Arcadia High School student and an idea to pay it forward equal? Arcadia Math Circles. Masterful mathematician/Arcadia High student Aditee Prabhutendolkar saw a real-world math problem she wanted to solve and got to work, creating a free after-school math enrichment program for Arcadia Unified students that has grown exponentially.  What started as 30 students at one school site, Arcadia Math Circles are now in nearly every elementary and middle school in the district, boasting more than 100 students circling up over their excitement for math. Through a very competitive application process, Prabhutendolkar was selected to join UCLA’s Math Circle, a free math enrichment program for the best and the brightest. This program allowed Prabhutendolkar, then in her first year of middle school, to explore math in ways she had not known were possible. After two years of participating in UCLA’s Math Circle, Prabhutendolkar’s math musings began to center on how she might be able to bring this sort of program to elementary school students. “Public schools lack funding, and some after-school enrichment programs can be pretty expensive,” explained Prabhutendolkar. “I wanted to find a way to bring the free opportunity I had through UCLA to students in my school district.” Prabhutendolkar described math circles as centering on giving younger students access to more competition-style math, which she hopes will inspire students to pursue competition math in high school and also provide students who are craving more math advancement opportunities with a cost-effective option. Ultimately, Prabhutendolkar turned herself into the solution for the problem, deciding to run her own weekly, hour-long math circles for students in her district. She reached out to the principal of her alma mater elementary school, Arcadia Unified’s Baldwin Stocker Elementary School, where she was received with support and encouragement. In order to run her first math circle on the campus, Prabhutendolkar had to create math lessons, establish class rules, and outline behavior expectations that she then communicated to parents. She also had to secure teachers who would be willing to open their classrooms for the weekly, hour-long math advancement program. “It wasn’t until college that I found an educator who made me believe I could love math,” shared Baldwin Stocker 4th-grade teacher Cristi Oster, who, without hesitation, agreed to let Prabhutendolkar use her classroom for math circles. “It’s wonderful to see Aditee engage with our students, helping them further cultivate their love for math, and it’s fun to watch their excitement when they come up with the answer.” Upon sharing the program details with Baldwin Stocker’s 4th and 5th grade families, more than 80 applications were received. As talk of the math circle opportunity circulated, parents from other Arcadia Unified schools began to approach Prabhutendolkar to see if she’d be willing to teach their students as well. “My vision for the program was to make this a streamlined, district-wide program,” said Prabhutendolkar. Connecting with Arcadia Unified mathematics teaching coach Brad Smith, Prabhutendolkar and Smith brainstormed the best ways to expand these math circles to other schools. “One of our main focuses in our district is fostering student agency and supporting student voice, and we love project-based learning,” said Smith. “After hearing about what Aditee started at Baldwin Stocker and hearing her passion for math, which nearly rivals mine, I wanted to support her efforts however I could.” Fast-forward three years from her first math circle, Prabhutendolkar has established a team of seven fellow Arcadia Unified students to lead weekly math circles in four of the district’s six elementary schools and two of its three middle schools.  Though Prabhutendolkar sees her future in the medical field, specifically neurosurgery, her advice to those seeking to solve a problem is universal: “Don’t be afraid of the potential challenges. Get to solving the problem; no one else will solve it for you.”
A Math Circles enrichment program in Arcadia Unified School District.
Arcadia High School student Aditee Prabhutendolkar leads a Math Circles enrichment program at one of Arcadia Unified’s elementary schools.
A group of Arcadia Unified students participate in the Math Circles program.

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