One of the greatest obstacles to scientific and technological progress in Brazil is the poor standard of maths teaching in schools. According to the Ministry of Education, only 42% of students in the third year of primary school can do simply arithmetic like addition and subtraction. In the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2012, based on the results achieved in maths by its students, Brazil came 58th on a list of 65 countries.
By focusing attention on the first few years of primary school, the O Círculo da Matemática do Brasil project, working with its founders, professors Bob and Ellen Kaplan of Harvard University, introduces the Math Circle approach to the country, perfecting and adapting its content to the Brazilian context. The strength of the Math Circle lies in its educational aspect, according to which student participation and reflection are fundamentally important for acquiring mathematical knowledge. In 2013, 7,000 lessons were held in connection with the O Círculo da Matemática do Brasil project, involving over 6,000 students between the ages of 7 and 9 from 61 schools across the country. The project began by training 50 teachers selected from public schools throughout the country. The teachers attended a training workshop with Bob and Ellen Kaplan and learned to replicate the Math Circle approach in class with their own students.
At the end of the period, an assessment of the project was carried out, which showed that in just three months the maths skills of students had increased by 5.7%. Over 14,000 lessons were held in 2014 at Brazilian public schools in the cities of Duque de Caxias (RJ), Porto Velho (RO), Belém (PA), Brasilia (DF), Fortaleza (CE), Aracaju (SE), Salvador (BA), Porto Alegre (RS), Rio de Janeiro (RJ) e São Paulo (SP), involving 8,000 students and promoting the training of 200 teachers from the schools where the lessons were held. In July of the same year, three teachers were selected to take part in the 7th annual training held at the Math Circle Summer Teacher Training Institute, Notre Dame University, Indiana, United Stated, as ambassadors of the O Círculo da Matemática do Brasil programme. The impact assessment conducted at the end of the year showed that children who took part in the project improved their maths skills by 7.3% on average. In 2015, 12 cities and 5,548 students were involved in the project, and still are. Around June, 50 teachers began to take an active part in this training process, replicating the approach and taking responsibility for training a further 2,146 teachers. This will allow more than 75,000 students in 20 Brazilian cities to enjoy the fruits of the teaching method. In 2016, the project continued with a further 50 teachers who completed the training process in April, becoming responsible for a further 1,800 teachers in another 20 cities.