University Relations and Communications

January 9, 2019


MSUB Math Circle logo and MAA logo

MSU Billings to host spring 2019 Math Circle

Professor Tien Chih to hold six sessions for students, parents and educators



University Relations and Communications, 657-2266


MSU BILLINGS NEWS—Montana State University Billings announces the spring 2019 dates of the Math Circle for students in the fourth-to-eighth grades, parents and teachers. Six sessions will be offered on Wednesdays at 4 p.m. in LA 206, beginning January 23.


Mathematics is a fun and vibrant discipline with many avenues for exploration and creativity that has been built on a long, unbroken string of discoveries since the dawn of civilization. Today’s students are typically only taught a narrow slice of this great topic.


Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be this way; these more interesting topics are not necessarily more difficult than the standard curriculum and are accessible to students with an elementary background.


A national organization of Math Circles was started by mathematicians across the country to present fun and challenging problems to students for the purpose of developing their creativity and problem-solving skills. Open-ended problems are posed to students who then work with each other to find creative solutions to the problems they are presented. Rather than being taught a technique and then given problems to solve with said technique, students are encouraged to view the problems in their own light and develop their own solutions.


The schedule for the semester is as follows:

  • Jan. 23: Checkerstax!—Two players, red and black, sit before stacks of checkers with mixed colors. They can only lift up checkers of their own color, but when they do they can keep all the checkers above the ones they lift. The last player to move wins. Can we determine right away who the winner will be in any game? How can we adjust this game to form a new number system?
  • Feb. 6: Futurama!—Professor Hubert Farnsworth and his graduate assistant Amy Wong build a mind-switching machine capable of switching the minds of any two individuals. However, there is a problem… once two bodies switch minds, they can never directly switch again! Will it be possible to return everyone to their original bodies?
  • Feb. 20: Turing Tumble!—How DO computers work? We don’t think of computation as a physical or mechanical process, but it is! Come and build a marble-powered computer and solve sophisticated computing challenges!
  • March 13: EABBA and Braids!—The alien inhabitants of planet EABBA speak a particular language where many words are synonyms by adding or removing certain strings of A’s or B’s. Turns out, their written language is done through braiding ropes. What is the connection here?
  • March 27: Cops & Robbers!—A robber moves from hideout-to-hideout while evading a cop chasing him diligently. Can the robber keep away indefinitely, or will the cop catch him? What if she calls for backup, will more cops let her catch the elusive robber? How do the layouts of the hideouts play into this?
  • April 17: Game Day! On the final day of the 2018-2019 MSU Billings Math Circle, we will play a variety of games, give out prizes, and celebrate a year of Math Circle!

Drinks and snacks will be provided to participants in the sessions.


MSU Billings Math Circle is brought to you in part by The Mathematical Association of America and the Dolciani Foundation through the Dolciani Mathematics Enrichment Grant.  


For more information contact Dr. Tien Chih at 657-2939 or