Mathcamp Math Jam

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Mathcamp Executive Director Marisa Debowsky describes the Mathcamp summer program for high school math students.

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Facilitator: Marisa Debowsky

LauraZed 2016-12-15 19:34:09
Hello and welcome to the Canada/USA Mathcamp Math Jam!
mumpu2k16 2016-12-15 19:34:21
lis4732 2016-12-15 19:34:21
LauraZed 2016-12-15 19:34:27
Before I introduce our guests, let me briefly explain how our online classroom works.
LauraZed 2016-12-15 19:34:34
This room is moderated, which means that all your questions and comments come to the moderators. We may share your comments with the whole room if we so choose.
LauraZed 2016-12-15 19:34:37
Also, you'll find that you can adjust the classroom windows in a variety of ways, and can adjust the font size by clicking the A icons atop the main window.
LauraZed 2016-12-15 19:34:46
Canada/USA Mathcamp is an intensive five-week-long summer program for high-school students interested in mathematics, designed to expose students to the beauty of advanced mathematical ideas and to new ways of thinking. You can learn more about Canada/USA Mathcamp at
LauraZed 2016-12-15 19:34:53
In this Math Jam, Canada/USA Mathcamp staff will lead a discussion about their outstanding program. Many AoPS instructors, assistants, and students are alumni of Mathcamp, including me!
LauraZed 2016-12-15 19:34:57
For now, please hold your questions – they'll let you know when you can start asking questions. Also, due to the number of people attending tonight, they may not be able to get to every question.
LauraZed 2016-12-15 19:35:06
And now let me introduce our guests!
LauraZed 2016-12-15 19:35:10
Marisa Debowsky (MarisaD) is the Executive Director of Mathcamp. She's been teaching Topological Graph Theory and singing pop songs at Mathcamp every summer since 2006.
LauraZed 2016-12-15 19:35:15
Kevin Carde (KevinCarde) is the Assistant Director and CTO of Mathcamp. He's been teaching Algebraic Combinatorics and playing piano at Mathcamp every summer since 2011.
LauraZed 2016-12-15 19:35:19
I'll turn the room over to Marisa now!
MarisaD 2016-12-15 19:35:33
Hi, everybody, and welcome to this Mathcamp Q&A! Many thanks to @LauraZed, @rrusczyk, and the AoPS team for hosting us (and persisting through technical difficulties).
MarisaD 2016-12-15 19:35:42
Kevin and I are here to talk about Mathcamp 2017, both the program and the application process. (You’ve got a captive audience with some admissions officers, so now’s your chance to ask your burning questions about applying to camp.)
MarisaD 2016-12-15 19:35:52
First, I’ll say in a few short sentences what Mathcamp is. Then we’ll spend about 30 minutes discussing the program, and 30 minutes discussing the application process, and then we’ll wrap up around 9pm ET.
MarisaD 2016-12-15 19:36:07
So, Mathcamp: as Laura said, it’s a 5-week residential math summer program. This year, it runs Sunday, July 2 through Sunday, August 6th, and it takes place at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington.
MarisaD 2016-12-15 19:36:20
July, you say? That's so far away! True. We're having this Math Jam in December so that you can start thinking now about whether the program is the right fit for you, and get clear about the application process. That way, when the Qualifying Quiz is posted and the application opens on January 15th, you can get started right away.
MarisaD 2016-12-15 19:36:32
Really really frequently asked questions, to get them out of the way:
MarisaD 2016-12-15 19:36:41
Who comes to Mathcamp? We have 120 students per year, from all over the world. It?s 65-75 new campers and 45-55 returning alumni per year. It?s about 40% girls, 60% boys.
MarisaD 2016-12-15 19:36:51
What kind of math? All kinds. Our course catalog has about 150 classes per summer, and you have complete freedom to design your own curriculum.
MarisaD 2016-12-15 19:36:58
What else happens? There are a zillion (approximately) activities happening during the evenings and on weekends, and you choose how to spend your time.
MarisaD 2016-12-15 19:37:09
How do I get in? Admission is competitive. (We admitted about 15% of the applicants last year.) The central components are the Qualifying Quiz ( and a personal essay (
MarisaD 2016-12-15 19:37:19
When do I apply? The application will open on January 15th, 2017, and the application deadline is March 10th, 2017. (Note that we've switched from early & regular to a single deadline!)
MarisaD 2016-12-15 19:37:30
Scholarships Yes! We have them. We offer tons of need-based financial aid, and about 25% of our students received full scholarships last year. Every student (US, Canadian, & International; new and returning) is eligible for financial aid.
MarisaD 2016-12-15 19:37:42
Okay, I think it's time for me to stop talking: we want to get to as many of your questions as possible We'd like to meet *you* along with your question, so here’s a suggested format:
MarisaD 2016-12-15 19:37:49
Name / Age / State-or-Country: Question
MarisaD 2016-12-15 19:37:56
Yvonne / 14 / Poland: What is the official mascot of Mathcamp?
Mohamed / Parent / CA: What are the cooking facilities like?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 19:38:03
(But that format is not mandatory - in keeping with the spirit of Mathcamp, just about everything is optional, and we’ll address you any way you like.)
MarisaD 2016-12-15 19:38:13
Okay, ready? Let’s spend about 7:45 - 8:15 on questions about the program itself: mathematical and residential life at Mathcamp; the people; the campus; the "during" and "after" of Mathcamp. (And then we’ll switch over to discussing the "before": the application process and financial aid.)
finchhawkins 2016-12-15 19:39:07
is it related to mathpath
MarisaD 2016-12-15 19:39:10
Not formally, but fun fact: MathPath (for students ages 11-14) and Mathcamp (ages 13-18) were founded by the same mathematician.
Mathisfun04 2016-12-15 19:39:14
Prefer not to say/ in middle school / USA: Is there any age restriction?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 19:39:35
Yes! The eligibility criterion is about age, not grade in school: students ages 13 - 18 are eligible to apply. (If you're 12 or 19 but have very special circumstances, talk to us about exceptions.)
finchhawkins 2016-12-15 19:39:42
are we going to do any problems
MarisaD 2016-12-15 19:39:53
Nope, we're just talking about the program and the application process today.
rc02 2016-12-15 19:40:00
Rachel/14/USA:What is the ratio of students to teachers?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 19:40:07
It's about 4:1.
mumpu2k16 2016-12-15 19:40:16
We will have to stay there?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 19:40:22
Yes, it's a residential program.
euler2015 2016-12-15 19:40:52
Anantajit/ 14 / CA Is "everything else" math related? In other words, are the only activities at math camp math related?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 19:41:14
We do all sorts of things, not just math! There's also singing and dancing and baking and hiking and frisbee and board games and....
kj2002 2016-12-15 19:41:19
What will we do on weekends? Are there field trips or something of that sort?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 19:41:41
There are field trips every weekend, yes! More info here:
AlphaPi17 2016-12-15 19:41:56
Nathan / 16 / Georgia: what are the cooking facilities like? I would like to cook a bit...
MarisaD 2016-12-15 19:42:07
There are kitchens in the dorms which students can use under staff supervision (and the staff are always excited to help with cooking and baking projects!).
kj2002 2016-12-15 19:42:48
How is the daily schedule like? How much time will be spent each day on math?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 19:42:57
That's a tough question. Here's a typical day at camp:
MarisaD 2016-12-15 19:43:14
...but the key point here is actually that you design your own schedule, and how you spend your time is completely up to you.
AlphaPi17 2016-12-15 19:43:23
Do you get lots of chess players?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 19:43:27
We do indeed.
CATAPHRAT 2016-12-15 19:43:34
What types of courses do you offer?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 19:44:05
ALL kinds of things. Here's a big list of topics:
MarisaD 2016-12-15 19:44:27
Courses come in all styles, too -- some are lectures, some are more interactive (with students presenting material).
turtles18 2016-12-15 19:44:33
Andrew / 15 / MA: are the teachers college students or people who have already graduated college?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 19:45:00
The teachers are mostly grad students, with some professors and other professionals.
finchhawkins 2016-12-15 19:45:19
what is the difficulty level of the math? (how much background should we have had to consider applying?)
mumpu2k16 2016-12-15 19:45:19
what is the difficulty of the problems?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 19:45:31
We expect all Mathcamp students to be comfortable with high-school math through Precalculus, but beyond that, the sky's the limit -- there will be classes that you can jump into with no other math experience, as well as advanced topics that you might not expect to see outside of a graduate seminar. The class schedule every year is unique, but we always fill it with a range of topics catering to a range of different mathematical backgrounds. You can learn lots about last year's classes from the schedules posted at
Hmmm... 2016-12-15 19:46:00
Louis/14/USA: What are some specific topics that we need to know before arriving?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 19:46:07
You should complete Precalculus before coming to Mathcamp (by taking a class in school, or the AoPS class, or by thorough independent study), because we're going to assume that you're very comfortable with functions, trigonometry, vectors, etc. in Mathcamp classes. Most of our classes don't require Calculus, so that's optional.
lis4732 2016-12-15 19:46:22
I'm sure all of the different students would be at different levels, how do you split them up for learning what is appropriate for the individual?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 19:46:45
Students get to choose their own classes, so you pick the courses that are the right fit for you in terms of pace, difficulty, and background material required.
Hmmm... 2016-12-15 19:46:57
Louis/14/M How do we know which course to pick?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 19:47:24
Well, first, you sit down with your academic advisor ( and discuss what kinds of math you want to do over the summer. (Maybe you want to get a broad overview of lots of kinds of math, or dig deeply into a particular subject, or take classes that focus on writing skills or presentation skills, or get better at problem solving, or?.)
MarisaD 2016-12-15 19:47:32
And then you and your advisor talk about the course catalogue. We sort the classes by theme to help you out: You make a tentative plan for what classes you want to take, and then you try it out and see how it goes. You don't have to formally register for classes ? you can just show up.
hydrobolic 2016-12-15 19:47:39
Are there computer science courses as well?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 19:47:50
Yes! Our instructors are primarily mathematicians, but we have lots of other interests as well, and you're likely to see a handful of classes on computer science, physics, and maybe even linguistics on the schedule. Just last year, for example, we had classes on neural networks, functional programming, quantum mechanics, and natural language understanding.
avn 2016-12-15 19:47:55
how many courses can you take at once?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 19:48:27
There are 4 class blocks (plus a colloquium) per day, so that's the max.
avn 2016-12-15 19:48:30
are there physics courses also?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 19:48:33
MarisaD 2016-12-15 19:48:42
(With a mathy bent.)
euler2015 2016-12-15 19:48:51
Prefer not to say / 14 / CA How difficult are the courses at math camp compared to regular classes and AP?
ednishda1 2016-12-15 19:48:51
what if you are in middle school
MarisaD 2016-12-15 19:49:27
The difficulty varies widely: some classes at Mathcamp are recreational and very relaxed in pace, and others are extremely fast and furious.
MarisaD 2016-12-15 19:49:46
Middle schoolers are welcome! (It's the age that we use as eligibility criterion, not grade in school.)
Infinitum2016 2016-12-15 19:49:54
What would you say is the most difficult math taught?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 19:50:06
Some examples from just last summer: K-theory, algebraic groups, analytic number theory, geometric group theory, spectral graph theory, factoring with elliptic curves.
euler2015 2016-12-15 19:50:29
Anantajit / 14 / CA How many courses can you take each summer?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 19:51:07
Students typically take 2, 3 or 4 classes per week, over the course of 5 weeks.
kj2002 2016-12-15 19:51:36
What is your most popular courses
MarisaD 2016-12-15 19:52:17
I think Combinatorial Game Theory might be the most popular class of all times. Last year, maybe it was the intro Group Theory course -- I've never seen so many people doing homework!
Blue_Whale 2016-12-15 19:52:20
Can you change your classes if you don't like them after the first day?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 19:52:35
Yes! You don't have to formally sign up for classes, so you can go to whatever class you want on whatever day (though if you're joining a class in the middle of the week, you might want to chat with the instructor so you know what you're getting into!).
lis4732 2016-12-15 19:52:48
Hm, how long do these classes last? Say, if you take K- theory, would you take that for all 5 weeks? And just a single class, how long is it in minutes?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 19:53:33
The most common format for courses is 1 hour / day, 5 days / week, for 1-2 weeks. But some classes are longer than an hour (e.g. 2 hours, or 5 hours) and some are shorter than a week (e.g. just a day or two) and others are longer (e.g. all five weeks).
hydrobolic 2016-12-15 19:53:42
Have you ever offered courses in music theory?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 19:53:47
On the mathematics of music, yes!
mathchampion1 2016-12-15 19:53:57
What types of math are covered?
dolphin8pi 2016-12-15 19:53:57
Is the camp competition based or pure math based?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 19:54:16
We mostly focus on pure math, but there's also a little bit of applied math and a tiny bit of competition math.
kevinmathz 2016-12-15 19:54:27
can you choose the number of weeks to stay?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 19:54:38
No, the program is designed to be for the whole five weeks.
AlphaPi17 2016-12-15 19:54:49
Do you require experience in competition type math?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 19:55:06
We definitely don't require it. (But some of our students happen to do competitions.)
Silverstream 2016-12-15 19:55:12
Do you offer competitive math classes? If yes, could you describe the lever of the classes? Do you offer USAMO level?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 19:55:54
We do offer some problem-solving courses -- usually one per day, some at an intro level and others at an olympiad level.
mathcrazymj 2016-12-15 19:56:07
Matthew/15/CA: Does Mathcamp help prep for contests like AIME/Math olympiads?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 19:56:25
Some of the courses we teach will help with contests, but it's not our main focus.
euler2015 2016-12-15 19:56:47
Anantajit / 14 / CA Would you recommend math camp for people not looking into a math major?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 19:57:07
Sure: you don't have to be planning on a math major in order to come to Mathcamp! You just have to be a math enthusiast.
Woolly_Mammoth 2016-12-15 19:57:13
Dave/17/USA How exactly are mathcamp classrooms organized?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 19:57:35
Instructors run classes in a variety of styles: some are more traditionally structured, with a presentation by the instructor every day, but some might not involve any lecture at all!
MarisaD 2016-12-15 19:57:38
Recently there has been an increase in classes focusing on inquiry-based learning, where the students themselves are the ones discovering concepts, solving problems, and presenting proofs. Some students really like these kinds of classes and some don't, so we make sure that, in addition to a variety of topics, we offer classes in a variety of different styles.
AlphaPi17 2016-12-15 19:57:49
How hard will the camp be?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 19:58:28
That also varies a lot from class to class! We're aiming to design a course catalogue that is accessible to students without a ton of background, but also has options that are challenging for even the most mathematically sophisticated students.
tmathman 2016-12-15 19:58:56
16 / TX I've had the privilege of taking a standard undergraduate mathematics curriculum, and I've worked specifically with some of the things that are labeled with 4 chili peppers, such as elliptic curve factorization/bilinear pairings. Will Mathcamp be challenging enough for students like myself?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 19:58:59
CATAPHRAT 2016-12-15 19:59:04
how large are the classrooms on average?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 19:59:25
A typical class has 12-20 students, but some are as small as 5 and others as big as 50.
avn 2016-12-15 19:59:31
is there homework?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 19:59:42
Most instructors do hand out problem sets. Each class will advertise in advance how crucial the homework is: for some classes, it's purely optional, and for others, it's absolutely necessary to understanding the next day's material. (And balancing your homework load is one thing to keep in mind when choosing your classes each week.)
MarisaD 2016-12-15 19:59:49
Now, homework at camp is maybe not like the homework you're used to: it's never boring. So we hope that you'll want to do the homework. (After all, you learn math by doing it, not just by watching your teachers perform it.)
dolphin8pi 2016-12-15 20:00:23
Whats the average age/grade of the people at mathcamp
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:00:35
The average age (in fact, the mean, median, *and* mode) at camp is usually 16. On the first day of Mathcamp 2016, there were:
5 campers age 13
5 campers age 14
27 campers age 15
33 campers age 16
31 campers age 17
16 campers age 18
3 campers age 19
math9990 2016-12-15 20:00:43
Which grades is this appropriate for
archiyaa 2016-12-15 20:01:13
high school?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:01:15
Well, age is the real criterion for us, but we have students come out of 7th grade and who come to camp up through the summer after finishing high school.
legend42 2016-12-15 20:01:34
David/14/UT How will we be put into the dorms if we get accepted and choose to go?
avn 2016-12-15 20:01:34
how many people are in a dom?
Timeturner 2016-12-15 20:01:34
Just some quick questions about sleeping conditions: are we living in dorms? and how many students are living in each room?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:02:48
The dorms will house all 120 campers + about 30 counselors.
aops187139 2016-12-15 20:02:59
can you go if you're in 6th grade?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:03:05
Yes, if you're 13 by the time camp starts.
finchhawkins 2016-12-15 20:03:10
how many times can you attend?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:03:33
Nope - you can come every summer until you age out. (We've had 6-year attendees before!)
CATAPHRAT 2016-12-15 20:03:38
Is there vegetarian food?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:03:40
lis4732 2016-12-15 20:03:49
Do we get time to interact with other students.
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:03:59
Yes! Everybody at Mathcamp is smart and cool and interesting to talk to. People often say that the community is the best part.
legend42 2016-12-15 20:04:03
David/14/USA: Are any electronics necessary or recommended to bring with us?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:04:28
That's up to you, but you're welcome to bring phone/tablet/laptop, and you'll probably find them helpful.
legend42 2016-12-15 20:04:37
David / 14 / USA: How does the rooming work at Mathcamp?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:04:53
First, you're matched with a roommate by age and gender. Then we use a questionnaire for admitted students to give us information about second-order considerations: how neat do you like to keep your room? Do you like to have friends hang out in your room in the evenings, or use your room as quiet study space? What time do you like to go to bed and get up? You also have the option to request to have specific roommates (which we'll honor if they request you in return!) or to avoid specific roommates (which we'll always honor).
kevinmathz 2016-12-15 20:05:06
how many sessions are there?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:05:09
Just one.
aops187139 2016-12-15 20:05:12
where is it?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:05:27
We move around each year. This year, we're at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, WA.
Silverstream 2016-12-15 20:05:32
Could you please describe logistics (transportation to and from the airport, dorms, etc.)?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:06:30
Well, specifically about the transportation question: we pick up students at the airport (it's SEA this year) on arrivals day and return them to the airport on departures day. (Lots more info about that: )
lis4732 2016-12-15 20:06:46
Will math camp usually be in Canada or the U.S.A?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:07:08
We've been on US campuses for quite a while recently. Here's the full list:
awin 2016-12-15 20:07:13
Usually U.S.A.
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:07:18
mumpu2k16 2016-12-15 20:07:27
what will we need to bring?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:07:34
Here's the packing list:
aops187139 2016-12-15 20:07:37
can we bring computer?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:07:40
Made_In_2016 2016-12-15 20:07:43
Anonymous/12/NY: is there wifi there?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:07:46
AlphaPi17 2016-12-15 20:07:55
do you have clubs?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:08:22
Hmm, good question. There are informal clubs, like the group of campers who make the yearbook. Here's a list:
finchhawkins 2016-12-15 20:08:28
do we get to keep phones
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:08:41
Yes, of course. (And we will tell you often to call your parents.)
Kacky119 2016-12-15 20:08:45
Are we going to be walking to different buildings for different activities or is everything in one building?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:09:03
We use several buildings on campus, but it's a pretty small campus, so you'll find it easy to get around.
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:09:16
(Your main points of interest will be the dorms, the dining hall, the classrooms.)
Banworry 2016-12-15 20:09:19
can we bring our guitar or violin
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:09:21
Of course!
changdee 2016-12-15 20:09:33
Do we get free time?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:09:57
Yes! Very much so. Your time is completely up to you at Mathcamp: you decide when to go to class, when to do homework, when to take a break.
AlphaPi17 2016-12-15 20:10:00
Are we allowed to form our own group activities?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:10:31
Yes! That's strongly encouraged. You put an event on the schedule board - - and then just make it happen.
mathcrazymj 2016-12-15 20:10:34
Matthew / 15 / USA: Can we use on-campus sports facilities to organize games during free times?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:10:51
Yes! And there's a really nice fitness center, which was just renovated (in 2016): . There's a pool, a fitness center, tennis courts, racquetball courts and a climbing wall.
kj2002 2016-12-15 20:10:57
Are we allowed to leave campus?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:11:16
Yes, with some restrictions: you have to be in group of at least three campers (or with a staff member or other authorized adult).
AthenasEye 2016-12-15 20:11:22
Time to call parents?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:11:57
You should call your parents all the time! So often that they're tired of hearing from you! That way, they don't call us and say "I'm worried that my kid has been eaten by a bear."
Makorn 2016-12-15 20:12:12
Are the Saturday afternoon relays every Saturday?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:12:14
changdee 2016-12-15 20:12:23
How big is the place?
CATAPHRAT 2016-12-15 20:12:23
Do you have a map of the part of campus we would be using?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:12:48
Here's a campus map:
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:13:16
We're in Smith/Oppenheimer, and the dining hall is in the student center, and the classes are in the science center.
Kacky119 2016-12-15 20:13:24
A bear?
legend42 2016-12-15 20:13:24
Has the "i'm worried that my kid has been eaten by a bear" actually happened?
changdee 2016-12-15 20:13:24
What happens if a kid is eaten by a bear?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:13:36
Makorn 2016-12-15 20:13:39
Insurance, I'd assume
lis4732 2016-12-15 20:13:43
Are our teachers available for any questions after class or on the weekends when completing home work?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:14:07
Yes! There are two hours every afternoon for informal office hours, and also we live on campus with you, so you can ask us math questions all the time.
Kacky119 2016-12-15 20:14:13
What time would light's out be?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:14:26
There is no required lights out time, but we have some systems in place to make sure everybody can get enough sleep. Out of respect for everyone trying to sleep, quiet hours begin in the quiet parts of the dorm at 10 PM (you can opt to be in the quiet section) and it's quiet everywhere by midnight. As an added incentive to help you make good decisions about going to bed: on weeknights, common areas close at midnight and all students must be in dorm rooms.
legend42 2016-12-15 20:14:31
Is there a place to practice piano if we want to?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:14:45
Yes! There's a piano in the dorm; we'll also have access to music practice rooms, including some with pianos.
Makorn 2016-12-15 20:14:49
Would classes ever be cancelled due to bad weather/other limiting conditions?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:15:06
The weather is generally great in the summers in the pacific northwest, so I've never seen this happen.
Kacky119 2016-12-15 20:15:10
About that pool... Is it one of the pools that have lanes that you swim laps?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:15:13
I believe so, yes.
happia2 2016-12-15 20:15:16
are you guys, the teachers, high schoolers?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:15:45
The teachers are grad students + professors, generally. But you can actually teach your own class at Mathcamp as a special project, so there are technically some classes taught by high schoolers!
CATAPHRAT 2016-12-15 20:15:49
What's the temperature in the summer on average?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:16:05
The weather in Tacoma is very pleasant over the summer: . A typical day has a high of 25 C / 77 F. It gets hot (say, up to 35 C / 95 F) on rare occasion, but it's not humid.
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:16:13
For the hot days, we recommend having a fan in your room: the dorms are not air-conditioned. The classrooms are, though!
yrchoii 2016-12-15 20:16:19
How do we go to church on Sunday
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:16:28
We can arrange for transportation! (We do this every year.)
AlphaPi17 2016-12-15 20:16:34
are there any museums or nice parks in Tacoma that you know of?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:17:15
Yes, actually, there are some awesome things in Tacoma. There's a museum of glass, and a great art museum, and a big park. Some info:
Kacky119 2016-12-15 20:17:22
Is carrying a water bottle recommended?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:17:25
Always a good idea.
CATAPHRAT 2016-12-15 20:17:28
what's the typical low during that time?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:17:37
It'll go down to the low 60s at night, in my memory.
kj2002 2016-12-15 20:17:44
How much time will we have a day to pursue other things (such as classes, homework, studying, etc.)
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:17:53
How you structure your time is totally up to you.
AthenasEye 2016-12-15 20:17:56
do we receive credits for high school classes
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:18:05
No, Mathcamp isn't credit-bearing.
owl 2016-12-15 20:18:11
Could you use it as another camp after mathpath if you want to go to a harder one?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:18:17
Sure! Lots of our students are MathPath alums.
Banworry 2016-12-15 20:18:21
are there classes on weekends as well?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:18:31
Just during the week, but we often chat math on the weekends for fun.
mathcrazymj 2016-12-15 20:18:47
Matthew / 15 / CA: for free times do you have basketball courts?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:18:49
AlphaPi17 2016-12-15 20:19:00
what distinguishes mathcamp from other summer math camps?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:19:13
This is a great question, and I'll answer this one and then head over to the next section of our time --
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:19:33
In a way, all of the summer math enrichment programs ( are places where you get to dive into interesting math and meet like-minded peers. You might think of these programs as sorting into three categories -- competition programs (like AwesomeMath), single-focus programs (like PROMYS and Ross, which have a Number Theory curriculum), and broader programs (like HCSSiM and MathILy and us).
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:19:42
What makes Mathcamp unusual is the extraordinary about of academic and personal freedom that students have. You design your own curriculum, you decide how to spend your time.
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:19:53
Okay! Those were great questions about the program.
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:20:09
Let’s spend about 8:20 - 8:50 on questions about applications and financial aid: eligibility, the application process, scholarships. (And then we’ll open up to any kinds of questions before we wrap up.)
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:20:31
(And if I didn't get to your program question in the first half, I'll try to come back to it!)
lis4732 2016-12-15 20:20:47
Lismary/13/New York : About applications, is it alright to be applying to a few different programs? What happens if you get into more than 1?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:21:27
Yes, and in fact we're not going to be able to accept all the great applicants we want to (too many applicants, not enough spots), so we recommend that you consider a backup option.
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:21:34
If you get into more than one, you get to choose.
AthenasEye 2016-12-15 20:21:45
How much will it cost?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:23:06
The full cost for Mathcamp 2017 will be \$4500. We offer LOTS of need-based financial aid: Mathcamp is completely free for US and Canadian families with household incomes of $65,000 and below, and tuition is on a sliding scale for middle-income and international families. For lots of details about scholarships, see: . The bottom line: don't let money prevent you from applying.
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:23:16
(LaTeX! darn you!)
yegkatie 2016-12-15 20:23:29
Katie/15/Canada : The start date is July 2nd but I may or may not have a piano competition around that time (depends if I qualify) so would it be OK if I arrived a bit later? Would I miss anything important?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:23:56
We usually have one or two students with important reasons to arrive late / leave early, and we can try to accommodate.
euler2015 2016-12-15 20:24:05
Are there any practice tests available?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:24:32
Yes! If you want to get a feeling for what the Qualifying Quiz is like, take a look at past years QQs:
BobaFett101 2016-12-15 20:24:49
How many questions do you need to solve on the application quiz to have a decent chance of getting in?
yrchoii 2016-12-15 20:24:49
Could you explain about the Qualification Test? How do we submit?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:25:41
So, the Qualifying Quiz is our entrance exam of sorts: it's how we get to know our applicants mathematically.
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:25:55
You submit it online as part of your application.
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:26:28
Now, in terms of number of questions - when we look at an individual Quiz problem, we're looking for a solution that is complete, correctly, and clearly communicated. (We definitely do give partial credit.)
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:26:37
It's hard to say "you need to answer this many questions", because when we look at the entire Quiz taken as a whole, we're looking for more abstract qualities: persistence; creativity; sound reasoning.
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:26:46
We don't ask for grades or standardized test scores in our application because we don't think of them as particularly useful for predicting who will be prepared for and benefit from Mathcamp classes; instead, the Quiz is our proxy for answering those questions.
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:27:01
What we're trying to read out of the Quiz is a little bit between the lines of the actual solutions: it's an understanding of the author's mathematical maturity.
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:27:08
The Quiz is untimed because it's intended to be more like a research project than like a competition, and as such, we don't grade it like you would a competition.
PieMaster 2016-12-15 20:27:19
Is there a certain score you need to get on the test to get in?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:27:26
In broad strokes: most successful applicants try every or almost every question, and make significant progress on several. But you'll find anecdotal evidence on all of the extremes: we have admitted students who solved only a few Quiz problems, and not admitted students with very strong Quizzes.
CATAPHRAT 2016-12-15 20:27:36
Are these problems primarily proof-based?
AthenasEye 2016-12-15 20:27:36
is the quiz like amc or more proofs?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:27:43
It's proof-based.
euler2015 2016-12-15 20:27:47
Is it an online quiz?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:27:57
We post the questions online, yes, and then you have about two months to work on them.
FlyingCucumber 2016-12-15 20:28:12
what's the level relative to olympiads?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:28:33
Apples and oranges -- it's not really like an olympiad.
yegkatie 2016-12-15 20:28:37
How do you send them in? With your application?
Kacky119 2016-12-15 20:29:03
How do you submit your answers?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:29:10
You'll typically upload a PDF of your solutions in the online application. (You can also submit by fax or snail mail.)
Silverstream 2016-12-15 20:29:14
Do you require recommendations from teachers?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:29:32
We do, yes: a math recommendation from a teacher, and a character reference from any adult who knows you well.
awin 2016-12-15 20:29:36
Do we do it on a device or on a paper
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:29:45
You can type or handwrite your solutions - either way.
owl 2016-12-15 20:29:50
How old can you be? Or is it done purley by skill? i am 10 and taking Geo, is it possible for me to apply?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:30:05
The minimum age for Mathcamp is 13, so wait a couple more years!
Silverstream 2016-12-15 20:30:09
could you please describe the essay assessment criteria?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:30:23
We're looking for students who are a good fit with the style of our program – who will make the most of the opportunities at camp and contribute to the camp community. Your essay is the place for us to get to know you a little more as a person.
awin 2016-12-15 20:30:30
Wait, do you do it when you're thirteen, or can you do it if you skip a few grades?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:30:39
It's about age, not grade in school.
CATAPHRAT 2016-12-15 20:30:43
Is the qualifying quiz going to test us on subject matter we need to know for the harder courses?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:31:09
The only background we assume is Precalculus - and then it's about ingenuity.
mochi 2016-12-15 20:31:13
Can I still apply if I'm turning 13 by mid-Febuary?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:31:16
owl 2016-12-15 20:31:24
How old can you be?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:31:44
Specific eligibility:
Kacky119 2016-12-15 20:31:48
Are you more likely to be accepted if you have been in a math camp before, like All Girls All Math?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:32:34
Good question! On the one hand, programs like AGAM are great preparation for Mathcamp. On the other hand, we're always impressed by students who are strong mathematicians but *haven't* yet been to a summer program. So either way is really fine!
stock_master 2016-12-15 20:33:17
Armaan/ 13/ USA. What is the difficulty level and would you recommend that to even consider applying we should have a certain score in something.
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:34:38
We don't have any score cutoffs, but my best suggestion is that you use the Qualifying Quiz as a guide. If the problems are fun for you, and you feel like you're making some progress towards solutions, then that's a good indicator that this might be a good fit. If you're frustrated / bored by the QQ, then maybe you'll want some more math background before you apply.
lis4732 2016-12-15 20:34:43
I'm almost 13 and in 7th grade. I'm thinking of applying in summer 2018, after 8th grade. So you're saying I would have to know Precalculus by then? Exciting!
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:34:48
yrchoii 2016-12-15 20:35:15
Should a student apply for this camp even if we didn't fully cover Precalculus?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:35:47
We need you to be comfortable with that material, but you can get there by independent study if you haven't had a chance to take a full-semester/year course.
AthenasEye 2016-12-15 20:36:01
What is looked at the most, or weighed the most heavily when looking at applications?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:36:20
The Quiz is the central component, but we definitely take the whole application into consideration. It's a holistic approach.
AlphaPi17 2016-12-15 20:36:30
how many applicants do you get?
pi-3.14 2016-12-15 20:36:30
What is the acceptance rate?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:36:57
The acceptance varies from year to year, based on the number of places we have available (sometimes as few as 65, sometimes as many as 75) and the number of applicants. In recent years, we've definitely seen (many) more qualified applicants than we have spots, so we end up having to say no to lots of great candidates.
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:37:14
The number of applications last year was in the high 400s.
CATAPHRAT 2016-12-15 20:37:28
AthenasEye 2016-12-15 20:37:28
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:37:34
Yeah, that was last year's rate.
euler2015 2016-12-15 20:37:37
Do you require a transcript for application?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:37:50
Nope. We just ask you to self-report your mathematical background.
kj2002 2016-12-15 20:37:54
What is the order of importance for the application, what do you consider the most? Is the Qualifying quiz the most important or is, the recommendation more important?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:38:21
The QQ is indeed the key part. So put time into it! We publish it in January so you can get started early and take your time thinking about the problems.
kj2002 2016-12-15 20:38:32
Is there a spot for extracurriculars? And can we submit a transcript if we choose to?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:38:40
You can describe these things in narrative format in your application.
CATAPHRAT 2016-12-15 20:38:45
if you have already went to the camp, then ifyou want to go again, what is the application process
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:39:35
Alumni are generally readmitted automatically; there's a sign-up process in the spring. You fill out some forms to claim your spot and then to register, but you don't have to do the QQ again.
euler2015 2016-12-15 20:39:38
What are you looking for in the recommendation letter?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:40:45
For the math letter, we're looking for a teacher/coach/etc to comment on your mathematical maturity. In the character letter, we're looking for information about your social and emotional maturity. Here's a page with lots more details:
kj2002 2016-12-15 20:40:51
Is there an essay required
boots 2016-12-15 20:40:54
Is there an essay portion of the application and if so what are the prompts like?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:41:13
There is indeed an essay, and it's an important part of the application. Here are the prompts:
Liopleurodon 2016-12-15 20:41:18
How is financial aid considered?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:42:16
For US and Canadian students, admission is entirely need-blind; we admit students, and then we process financial aid applications for all admitted students. For international students, we have to take aid into consideration when we make admission offers because the plane ticket costs can really add up (and we have a large financial aid budget, but it's finite: about $160,000).
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:42:27
Here are lots of details:
euler2015 2016-12-15 20:42:36
When will we know if we got in?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:42:51
Decision day this year is Monday, April 10th.
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:43:20
Lots more information about dates and deadlines:
awin 2016-12-15 20:43:26
What if we didn't get in? Will we have to wait until next year?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:44:19
You can definitely apply more than once! It takes a lot of work to apply, and we're always impressed by people who do a Qualifying Quiz two or three times. (And I'm always excited when someone gets in on their second or third try.)
Banworry 2016-12-15 20:44:22
how many international students do you admit?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:44:30
About 15% of our students are international.
owl 2016-12-15 20:44:38
How many questions does the QQ usually have?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:44:44
Generally 5-10.
lis4732 2016-12-15 20:44:49
When do we have to confirm that we will attend?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:45:30
The registration deadline for admitted students is Monday, May 8th. If there are places available after that, we'll offer them to students on the waitlist, and then everybody's status is finalized by May 31st.
Liopleurodon 2016-12-15 20:45:33
For the recommendation letter, can someone like my physics teacher write it, since physics is mathematically related, or does it actually have to be a math teacher?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:45:43
It can be a physics teacher, if they can speak to your math background!
Banworry 2016-12-15 20:45:50
US citizen studying abroad are considered interntional or local?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:46:09
Generally it's by current location and not citizenship (but talk to us if you have special circumstances).
kj2002 2016-12-15 20:46:17
What are some common backgrounds of people that get in? (MOP, USAJMO...etc.)
AthenasEye 2016-12-15 20:46:17
Let's say I got 120 on AMC 10, how does that compare with the rest of the applicants? Do i have a shot?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:46:45
Competition math is generally not a good guide for Mathcamp admission, because not all of our students do competitions. We have some students at camp who've never done a math competition before, and others who come to camp fresh off their IMO gold medal wins. It really runs the gamut.
math_matters 2016-12-15 20:47:00
how selective is kernel
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:47:42
Hah! I love this question. The Kernel is Mathcamp's contemporary a cappella group, and it is indeed auditioned. It's not super duper selective, but getting in depends a little on what voice parts we need and how comfortable you are holding your own part.
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:48:23
Okay! Thanks for all the great questions about the application process.
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:48:28
The field is open for any questions about Mathcamp, and we’ll wrap up at 9pm ET.
bob23 2016-12-15 20:49:05
Is Mathcamp a digital thing or a in-person camp?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:49:16
It's in-person!
Liopleurodon 2016-12-15 20:49:29
If you could describe Mathcamp in 3 words, what would it be?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:49:43
..... ....... ...............
FlyingCucumber 2016-12-15 20:50:04
Is the program for contest math or undergraduate math?
Woolly_Mammoth 2016-12-15 20:50:04
Dave/17/USA Are there classes specifically focused on contest prep in MathCamp?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:50:26
We're more focused on undergrad math, but we do offer some classes specifically about contests.
Liopleurodon 2016-12-15 20:50:43
Liopleurodon 2016-12-15 20:50:43
Beautiful words of wisdom
AthenasEye 2016-12-15 20:50:43
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:50:48
Yes, and thank you.
Silverstream 2016-12-15 20:50:51
Do you know where it will be in 2018 and 2019?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:50:57
Not yet! Stay tuned.
aops187139 2016-12-15 20:51:13
when is it?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:51:21
This year, it's July 2 - August 6, 2017.
lis4732 2016-12-15 20:51:38
In the process of going to Math Camp, when do we find out what the course options are? Before camp, or on the first few days?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:52:05
We'll post the summer course schedule in June, and you'll get the detailed catalogue when you arrive at camp.
Silverstream 2016-12-15 20:52:19
Do you offer any research based classes that could support independent research projects?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:52:48
Lots of students choose to do projects at camp (, and you can opt to do an original research project, either on a topic suggested by the Mathcamp faculty or a project you've already been working on. That's usually how research shows up at camp, rather than in classes per se.
Jeffrey2000 2016-12-15 20:52:53
Jeffrey/16/NYC anything on computer science and/or multivariable calculus and up?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:53:25
Yes! We definitely offer CS-type classes, and if you're interested in analysis, there's a whole post-calculus section of classes.
AthenasEye 2016-12-15 20:53:32
Can you explain the choosing courses process? You mentioned that going to classes is optional. I am a little confused.
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:53:47
Let's see if I can do it justice. So the process looks like this:
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:54:15
* You and your academic advisor make a plan for what you'd like to take over the summer, and it gets refined / revisited each week.
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:54:42
* Generally, students go to the classes they planned to go to, but you can always switch / add / drop as needed.
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:55:01
* Everything at Mathcamp is optional, even classes - but we hope that the classes are so interesting that you'll want to go!
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:55:38
Does that help? (Feel free to keep asking refinements of this question - it's pretty core to the Mathcamp experience, but hard to describe.)
bob23 2016-12-15 20:55:44
If we get into Mathcamp, but for some reason we won't be able to attend anymore, is that fine?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:57:10
Well, you generally only register if you know you're planning to come. If you change your mind after the registration deadline but still in mid-May, we can find another student on the waitlist to take your spot, so we'll refund your deposit (less a small admin fee). After May 25, refunds are only available for unusual circumstances (e.g. illness).
AthenasEye 2016-12-15 20:57:15
Is the academic adviser chosen for you or is that someone like your parents or math teacher/coach?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:57:49
Oh! An academic advisor is a Mathcamp instructor, and you pick your advisor on the first day of camp. More info:
Silverstream 2016-12-15 20:58:01
What courses are the most popular?
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:58:52
Hmm.. off the top of my head: voting theory, point-set topology, ring theory...
CATAPHRAT 2016-12-15 20:58:57
Combinatorial game theory
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:59:01
Definitely that!
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:59:34
Okay, everybody - time to wrap up. Thanks for spending your evening with us! Lots of great questions.
MarisaD 2016-12-15 20:59:42
If we didn't get to your question, feel free to email and we'll be happy to continue the conversation. (You can also post questions in the Mathcamp forum here on AoPS, at - the Mathcamp staff will post replies, and you'll get student opinions, too!
changdee 2016-12-15 20:59:52
How much homework is there?
Timeturner 2016-12-15 20:59:52
This was really helpful thank you!!
MarisaD 2016-12-15 21:00:30
(@changdee re HW - Most classes have a little, and some have a lot, and others have none. Like everything at Mathcamp, it's optional - but fun!)
AthenasEye 2016-12-15 21:00:41
Thank you, this makes sense now.
mathcrazymj 2016-12-15 21:00:41
thank you!
CATAPHRAT 2016-12-15 21:00:41
Thank you all!
Liopleurodon 2016-12-15 21:00:41
Thank you for the jam! Very informative
lis4732 2016-12-15 21:00:41
Thanks Marisa! Sounds like a great program
MarisaD 2016-12-15 21:01:24
Stay tuned for the Qualifying Quiz and the application: we'll post them January 15th. Meanwhile, have a great winter break, everybody, and good night!

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