Saturday, March 5, 2011

Math Circles make a difference:

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- A Mills College professor has won the nation's highest award for teaching math. Zvezdelina Stankova, Ph.D., has made it her mission to inspire Bay Area students to follow a path in mathematics.

Stankova probably wouldn't be here had it not been for her math teacher in her native Bulgaria. In class one day she was given a second chance to solve a math problem.

"I was very puzzled how my classmates could do it and I couldn't. I couldn't believe it, that that was the case. So I went to the math circle and three months later I won the local math Olympiads with a perfect score," said Stankova.

That day her teacher told her, "What comes from within you, can take you very far." Stankova now gives that advice to all her students.

That happened a quarter century ago. Zvezda has had many adventures and accomplishments since then--check out the video above for more. Or, if you prefer text to video, see here. (Hat tip: David Cordeiro of the Metroplex Math Circle.)

In 1998, after getting her PhD in mathematics from Harvard University, Zvezda drew on her childhood experiences with Bulgarian math circles to found the Berkeley Math Circle. You can read more about the Berkeley Math Circle in this remarkable book. Here is a sample chapter on combinatorics from Paul Zeitz, one of the Berkeley math circle's many contributors.

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