Mathematical circles originated in Eastern Europe in the 1930s, spreading to Western Europe, Asia, and, eventually, to North America. They are gatherings of motivated students looking for new challenges in mathematics as well as a deeper understanding of the subject. Student circles are usually run by college professors, schoolteachers, or even enthusiastic parents wishing to share their appreciation of and love for mathematics. While solving problems is emphasized, the circles also pay considerable attention to mathematical ideas and techniques that are broadly helpful.

The idea of teacher mathematical circles is more recent. Such circles are gatherings for elementary and secondary school teachers where they may develop effective approaches to teaching mathematics, with a particular emphasis on problem solving.

In the interest of fostering a greater awareness and appreciation of mathematics and its connections to other disciplines and everyday life, MSRI and the AMS are publishing books in the Mathematical Circles Library series as a service to young people, their parents and teachers, and the mathematics profession.

The books in the series are suitable for leaders and participants in mathematical circles. Parents of the participants in the student circles will also find the books quite useful. The books come from several sources: translations of suitable books from Russian or Eastern European sources, books written in English for this audience, and practical books for and written by organizers of mathematical circles. The series is co-published by the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute and the American Mathematical Society. (ISSN 1944-8074) Softcover.