Math Collaborations

  • Fun
  • Mathematically Intense
  • Fully Collaborative
  • Empowering
  • Leadership Building
  • Communication Developing
  • and Friendship Inducing...

Math Collaborations are events that grew out of activities at the Girls' Angle Club. We have now hosted over 150 such events at schools and libraries, including one for an icebreaker activity for Harvard math concentrators. We also ran 6 large-scale Math Collaborations called SUMIT. See testimonials below. Also read this blog post by Vincent Marino of Pollard Middle School and this article by a participant in a middle school Math Collaboration.

Math Collaborations are highly flexible and can be made for groups of various sizes, ability levels, and grades. We've created events for 3 participants up to 175, and for students in PreK through high school. Most have been all-girl, but some have been all-boy or co-ed. We can design the event to last anywhere from half an hour to a full day, though most have lasted 2 hours.

The Math Collaboration is a mathematically-intense alternative to the Math Competition. Unlike Math Competitions, Math Collaborations are fully collaborative. Participants win or lose together as a unit and have every incentive to communicate well and share their ideas. Because Math Collaborations are done in the open, we can, if desired, make the content deeper than that found on the typical math competition.

Math Collaborations can be arranged for a variety of settings. We have already organized long-distance events, such as one that took place at the Fitzjohn Primary School in London, England.

Contact us if you would like to discuss the possibility of having us host a Math Collaboration for your organization.

Girls' Angle thanks Microsoft Research for their generous, continued financial support for our Math Collaboration program.


"...really fun when you got a bunch of people with varying areas of background knowledge to contribute answers... The math problems themselves were really stimulating and a good mix of high school and college math. It seemed like for each problem, there was at least one person within the participants who had the ability to solve it, and I think the emphasis on collaboration made us both put forward our strengths..."

Serina Hu

Undergraduate, Harvard University

"Every Olympiad paper I sat, I felt I was somehow betraying the soul of mathematics by using it for purely competitive oneupmanship. Girls' Angle's Math Collaborations combine Olympiad-quality problems with a guilt-free, competition-less ethos that encourages experimentation and development of problem-solving skills. I wish we had had them when I was in high school!"

Michael Kielstra

Undergraduate, Harvard University

These are from participants at the Harvard Math Breaker, which took place on September 15, 2018.

"We hosted Ken for the Girl's Angle Math Collaboration at the Cary Memorial Library in Lexington. I was doubtful that we could convince a group of pre-teens to come to the library to do two hours of math in August, but it turned out to be one of the best programs of the summer. We were all screaming with excitement during the challenges. By the end of the program, all of the girls were talking about how much fun they'd had, but more importantly, I could clearly see that each of the girls walked away that afternoon feeling more confident and self-assured than they had been when they began. I hope that we are able to offer this program again in the future. Our patrons loved it!"

Jennifer Forgit

Teen Services Manager, Cary Memorial Library

"Ken recently hosted a Girls' Angle event for my Girl Scout troop in Brighton, MA. I have a blended troop with girls aged 11-18 and it is often very hard to find activities that keep all of the girls engaged and excited I was so impressed with Ken's activities and his easy way with all of the girls. Not only did the activities keep the girls absorbed, but Ken was able to draw in some of the more reserved girls as well. For example, one of the older girls kept saying that she was no good at math and that she wasn't able to solve any of the problems. Ken found a logic problem that was more suited to her abilities and helped walk her through how to solve it. She may not admit it, but I think she was very proud of herself when she figured out the solution! At the end of the event the girls all said that they would love to have Ken come in for another event next year."

Alexis Coleman

Girl Scouts Troop 79066

"The Math Collaboration was one of the favorite activities our Troop of Cadettes (6th graders) completed this year. As soon as we finished they all asked when they could do it again! I can't think of a better compliment. I was excited to bring this opportunity to our troop. The girls were instantly intrigued by the treasure box. After receiving minimal instructions they were quick to self-organize and eagerly jumped into their adventure. This activity truly embodied the skills we want to encourage as part of Girl Scouts. The girls realized that if they worked together and communicated they would have more success with the math challenges. As they completed questions, it was great to see them encourage each other to keep going. Ken did a great job tailoring the adventure to our girls' age and skill levels. They definitely felt challenged. And they were incredibly proud of what they accomplished at the end of the adventure. We can't wait for the next one!"

Maura O'Brien

Girl Scouts Troop 80334

"The girls all engaged in the work right away and with an intensity that I hadn't expected to see on a Friday afternoon right after a full day of school. They organized themselves. I wasn't the coach- I was the spectator. And everyone found a way to contribute. They worked together in a fashion that acknowledged individual differences but was nevertheless very supportive. One girl would propose a solution with a flash of insight and another would patiently check it with long division. Some girls would tackle the individual problems while others would search for patterns in the results which allowed them to decode the final challenge.

The exercise taught not just math but also organization as they worked out a system of checking each others' work. It also taught strategic thinking as they were blocked by a particularly challenging problem of the first phase of the puzzle. Many books, chairs, and markers, accompanied by a lot of hard thought, were devoted to that problem, but it would not yield to analysis. Instead they found a way around it as they were able to fit other pieces of the puzzle into place that let them decode the final challenge. The final challenge was a great culmination to the event. When they finally worked out the solution, they were very proud of their accomplishment. Before we left, the girls wrote the final challenge problem on the board so everyone in the class will be sure to see it on Monday.

Last but perhaps not least they seemed to have a lot of fun with a great group of peers."

Prof. Patrick Gurian

Drexel University

(organizer of the Radnor Middle School event)

"The math challenges led for us by Girls' Angle founder Ken Fan have been remarkably effective in teaching my middle school students 21st century skills: critical thinking, communication, creativity, and collaboration. Ken's assiduous organization of the puzzles and knowledge of when to intervene allow for the girls to dig in with minimal upfront direction. The joy and empowerment the girls experience from continually getting themselves "unstuck" throughout the process has been palpable. After a full school day plus an extra two and a half hours of solving math puzzles, the girls are exhausted but totally pumped. This is the best of what math can be!"

Randi Currier

Buckingham Browne & Nichols Middle School, Cambridge

"As a middle school educator with almost a decade of experience, I am constantly looking to provide opportunities where my students are forced to work cooperatively rather than competitively. I am also always focused on providing my female students with situations to challenge themselves in math and build their confidence.

For both of these reasons I was thrilled to have Girls' Angle host a math treasure hunt for a group of seventh grade (and two eighth grade) female math students at my school during the winter. The girls signed up to stay at school during an early release day. I was concerned about whether my students would remain engaged for the entire event as giving up time with friends for extra math is not typically well received with middle school-aged girls. I was surprisingly thrilled with the outcome. The girls organized themselves almost immediately into smaller groups to break up the work with no direction from any adults. They then went on to display dogged determination for the entire two hour time limit of the treasure hunt. Their teamwork and perseverance were rewarded as they unlocked the treasure chest with less than a minute left in the hunt, earning the prizes within.

The treasure hunt provided a unique setting where student success was predicated on each member of the group working for a common goal. This forced the students to communicate effectively and share their individual ideas with the team. It was amazing to watch students extend themselves, share ideas, ask questions, and experiment without any prodding.

One of the most rewarding parts of the event was the response from my students in the days following. The girls were so proud of what they achieved and the confidence that the event instilled in them was evident for the remainder of the school year. They loved that they did not need adult help to accomplish the goal, and they definitely loved the prizes they won.

I cannot wait for Ken and Girls' Angle to host a treasure hunt next year!"

Vincent Marino, 7th grade math teacher

Pollard Middle School, Needham

"This past July, Ken Fan organized a Girls' Angle Math Collaboration for the middle school girls who participated in the Tech Savvy Program hosted by the Boston Area Girls STEM Collaborative. Ken constructed a complex math "riddle" which the girls could only decode by solving smaller math-related problems that unlocked the coordinates and combination they would need to discover what was in a locked box. This activity was a very fun and lively way for the girls to focus on complex mathematical problems for an extended period of time.

Rather than receiving lengthy and overly-detailed instructions in the beginning, the girls were only given a small set of general rules (i.e. no outside help from their counselors or any other authority figure) and were then left to their own devices to navigate the rest of the hunt within a limited time period. The girls needed to use their organizational and leadership skills to solve the problems as fast as possible. After a short period of chaos, they organized themselves into groups of 2 to 3 girls to work on each problem. Girls who didn't like a particular problem were free to move on to another problem that was more appealing to them. Solving the problems required the use of a very broad spectrum of skills- from spatial reasoning to statistics, so it was possible for each girl to gravitate to solving a puzzle that corresponded to her own personal skills, interests and problem-solving nature.

Activities included a game of "mathematics charades," and some simple combinatorics. Towards the end, many of the girls were using fairly complex algebra and solving systems of equations, which are generally high school level math skills. When they got close to the end and only had a few more problems left to solve to unlock the "treasure chest," they all collaborated effectively on the remaining problems, acknowledging one another's ideas rather than simply talking over one another. It was inspiring to see how the girls were able to self-organize and successfully achieve the end goal. It was a creative and engaging way to have fun with mathematics!"

Leila Haery, Tech Savvy Counselor

Karrie Weber, Tech Savvy Counselor

Cynthia Brossman, Tech Savvy Director

"This [the Constellation Fitzjohn Math Collaboration] was definitely the highlight of the kids' mathematical year, and most exciting hard-working...collaboration...I've been involved in. But what was the greatest thing about the event, was the buzz, the complete hive of mathematical activity, and the enthusiasm, effort and the various successes, joint and individual, to figure something out. So it was brilliant. Thanks!"

Dr. Konstanze Rietsch

King's College, London

(organizer of the Fitzjohn Primary School event)

This page was last modified on 7/10/19
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