Mathcamp Math JamGo back to the Math Jam Archive
Marisa Debowsky, Cananda/USA Mathcamp's Executive Director, describes the Mathcamp summer program for high school math students.
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Facilitator: Marisa Debowsky
Hello and welcome to the Canada/USA Mathcamp Math Jam!
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 http://www.mathcamp.org.
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!
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.
Mira Bernstein (MiraBernstein) has been a core organizer and instructor at Mathcamp since 1997. She loves teaching Bayesian Statistics and reading plays with campers. She, too, is on the admissions committee every year!
Thank you for tuning into this Math Jam! I'll turn the room over to Marisa now!
Hi, everybody, and welcome to the annual Mathcamp Q&A! Thanks as always to @rrusczyk, @vapodaca, and the AoPS team for hosting us.
Mira and I are here to talk about Mathcamp 2021, both the program and the application process. (You've got a captive audience with admissions officers, so this is a great chance to get ready for application season.)
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.
So, Mathcamp: it's a 5-week immersive math summer program. This year, Mathcamp will take place online, from Saturday, July 3 to Sunday, August 8, 2021, on our "Virtual Mathcampus." (We’ll tell you a lot more about that later.)
Really really frequently asked questions (RRFAQ), to get them out of the way:
Who comes to Mathcamp? We have 120 students per year, from all over the world. It's about 65 new campers and 55 returning alumni per year. (This is the same at our traditional residential program and our COVID-era online program.) The student body is about 50% girls and nonbinary students, and 50% boys.
What kind of math? All kinds. A cool thing about Mathcamp is that we offer 100+ classes and projects over the course of a single summer, and you have complete freedom to design your own curriculum.
What else happens? During the evenings and on the weekends, there are a zillion (ish) activities happening, and you choose how to spend your time.
That flexibility and creativity – academic and nonacademic – are the defining characteristics of Mathcamp.
How do I get in? Admission is competitive. (We typically admit 10 - 15% of the applicants.) The two main ingredients are the Qualifying Quiz and your personal essay. You'll also submit recommendation letters and some short answers about your math background. For more info, see https://www.mathcamp.org/quiz/ and https://www.mathcamp.org/essay/.
When do I apply? The deadline to apply is a few weeks away: March 18th, 2021. (All applications received by the deadline get equal consideration, so there's no advantage to applying early.)
Scholarships? Yes! Every student (US, Canadian, & International; new and returning) is eligible for financial aid, and we have a large scholarship budget: everybody who needs financial aid will receive it. About 25% of our students receive full scholarships, and we can even provide laptops, tablets, internet access, and any other tools you need to participate in Mathcamp online.
What is VMC? We use "VMC" to stand for "Virtual Mathcamp," which is the online version of the summer program.
Alrighty, let's shift gears! Too much of my typing going on. We want to get to as many of your questions as possible.
Mira and I would like to meet *you* along with your question (we talk to students and families a lot by email, and this is a chance for us to talk with you in realtime!), so here's a suggested format:
Name / Age / Location: Question
Kathy/ 15 / San Antonio: Do we celebrate birthdays during Mathcamp?
Jax / Parent / Toronto: How do you handle students in multiple time zones?
(But that format is not mandatory - in keeping with the spirit of Mathcamp, just about everything is optional, and we'll do our best to answer your questions in any format.)
Okay, ready? Let's spend about 7:45 – 8:15 ET on questions about the program itself: mathematical and social life at Mathcamp; the people; the online campus; the "during" and "after" of Mathcamp. (And then we'll switch over to discussing the "before": the next topic will be the application process and financial aid. But hold off on those questions for a few minutes.)
What is the math level? Like grade level/class.
We teach math that is not part of the typical high school curriculum - it's more like the math you'll meet in college (or even grad school), but it's made accessible to students with just a background up through Precalculus.
Are the classes through video, such as Zoom?
Maggie/15/Toronto: So, I'm pretty sure everyone's asking this question but how would interacting on the online campus work?
What type of online program is math camp using for 2021? Like zoom, gotowebinar, etc.
Yup, we figured this would be a very common question. Let me tell you a little about our format for this summer:
We didn't want camp to be a pile of Zoom links, so when we decided to go online last spring in light of COVID-19, we built our own virtual world for hanging out together.
Our initial goals were to evoke familiar spaces, so that students and staff would intuitively know how to use the digital space; to make the campus interactive (e.g., everybody can post signs on our virtual walls), so we could all contribute to building camp together; and to make the website immersive, to capture our attention and keep us involved. We hired an architect to design us an imaginary campus, and watercolor artists to bring it to life, and did all the coding in-house. The result is both beautiful and quirky and very, very Mathcamp.
Here's what the bird's-eye view looks like:
Access to everything on campus—classrooms, lounges, virtual green spaces—is centralized, and the navigation mimics the layout of an idealized college campus. It also (ahem) has some puzzles embedded (no spoilers).
Lots more info here: https://www.mathcamp.org/current_program/campus/
are we allowed to jump on the trampoline?
Marc / Parent / British Columbia: Follow up question to "math level" - is there a minimum grade you recommend? If our son is currently in grade 8, is he too young to apply?
The relevant question is mathematical maturity, rather than age or grade; we're looking for students who are ready for proof-based classes.
what is the age range of participants?
Ages 13–18, typically.
On the first day of Mathcamp 2020, there were:
1 camper aged 13
2 campers aged 14
22 campers aged 15
32 campers aged 16
39 campers aged 17
19 campers aged 18
5 campers aged 19
(That's pretty typical for the number of students on the younger side, and slightly more older students than usual; we happened to have a bunch of returning alums who had just turned 19.)
huh? what trampoline
What percentage of campers do you estimate are also AoPSers?
Excellent question; no idea!
Can I see a map of Math Camp?
is there a dining hall?
I don't think I have a full map image online, but I'll add one to the website sometime.
There is a kitchen and a vegetable garden.
Does this program cost money?
Yes, but there is also financial aid available:
The cost for our 2021 program will be between $0 and $1,500, depending on financial aid.
how much will mathcamp help with contest prep?
A little bit, but that's not our main focus.
What would we learn in these classes?
Every Mathcamp has a different class schedule, but the classes always come from a range of topics appropriate to a range of different mathematical backgrounds. Many classes will have no prerequisites (other than high-school algebra or precalculus); others will require some pretty intense knowledge of advanced mathematics. (Though almost always, the appropriate prerequisites will be offered as Mathcamp classes earlier in camp!) The result is that you can fill a schedule that works for you and your math background, whatever it may be. To get a sense of the variety of class offerings, take a look at last year's class schedule and descriptions: https://www.mathcamp.org/2020/classes/
how long(weeks/days/hrs) will be the camp
Camp runs for Saturday, July 3 to Sunday, August 8, 2021 this year.
Joy/parent/Michigan: Daughter participated in Mathpath for the past 2 summers, how does Mathcamp compare?
Mathcamp is similar in some ways to MathPath, but with a lot more flexibility in both academic and social time, and a much higher ceiling of challenging math classes.
what is the max age level?
We always invite applications up to age 18. We have made exceptions for admitting 19-year-old before.
What's the min age level?
The minimum age is 13 (and we have only once ever made an exception to that; we're firm on the minimum).
Is there a curfew?
Definitely not for VMC, since participants are all over the world.
This cammp runs for 5 weeks, but since it is virtual, wha will the times be each day?
Here's a detailed look at the day-to-day calendar: https://www.mathcamp.org/current_program/schedule/ We're still open to making adjustments to this summer's schedule, but it'll be similar to last year's. Our core "academic day" is 9am - 3pm Pacific Time: that's when classes and office hours are scheduled. Before and after that, there are both mathematical and social activities happening all the time. (And since we're distributed across so many time zones at Virtual Mathcamp, there really are people awake around the clock!)
Yes, sorry. For the normal Mathcamp is there a curfew?
Ah, I see. When camp is residential, there's an "everybody in the dorm by 11pm" rule, but we don't enforce a bedtime or a lights-out.
Is diversity encouraged at mathcamp? From which country other than US do most participants come?
What percentage of girls are there at the camp?
The overall student body for the last three years has been about 45–50% girls, 50–55% boys, with a handful of nonbinary students every summer.
Overall, the demographic has been slowly shifting towards gender parity over the last decade.
About 75-80% of our students are from the U.S.; 5-10% from Canada; and 15% from everywhere else. We've had students from all fifty U.S. states! And here is where our international students have come from:
Diversity is very much encouraged!
What would you say differentiates mathcamp from other elite math summer camps?
How does this compare to other camps? Promys, Ross, MathILy?
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). Mathcamp is in the 'broad' category. Here's a big list of summer programs (of all sorts): https://artofproblemsolving.com/wiki/index.php/Mathematics_summer_program
What makes Mathcamp unusual is the extraordinary amount of academic and personal freedom that students have. You design your own curriculum, you decide how to spend your time.
ChiChi/ 15/ New York: What do the peppers on the schedule mean?
This is a spiciness rating! It's meant to describe the pace/difficulty of a class: one chili is mild, so every student should be able to follow; four chilis are very spicy, so even the strongest student should be challenged. 2-3 are in between.
You can see examples here: https://www.mathcamp.org/2020/classes/
Are there "bunks" or other sorts of groupings of people? (both this year and in the past) How do people get to know each other at VMC?
Yes! There are RA groups at VMC, just like at residential camp. Your residential advisor is your default point of contact on the staff, and your RA group will be the first students you get to know in the camp community. If you want, you can even have a "Zoommate." (At Mathcamp 2020, some campers called their Zoommate every night before bed to say hi!)
How much of a time commitment is it per day?(sorry if this has been asked before)
Here's a sense of the day: https://www.mathcamp.org/current_program/schedule/
But that only gives a glimpse – the idea is that everybody designs their own schedule.
So, you decide how many hours a day you want to be doing VMC stuff. (For most people last year, it was a lot!)
what % of students are retuning students?
It's typically about 65 new students + 55 returning = 120 total students.
mathcamp has an incredible variety of new classes every summer
could you give us examples of what cool classes are available?
Yeah! Definitely. Let's see –
Some core classes are pretty consistent from year to year. There's always one class that covers basic Proof Techniques, and others will cover core introductory material that other Mathcamp classes often use as prerequisites, like Graph Theory, Group Theory, Linear Algebra, and Number Theory. These introductory classes are often the starting point for what we call "clusters," collections of courses on core topics in pure math, like Algebra, Analysis, Combinatorics, and Topology.
What are the typical "starting courses" for someone who has taken precalc but nothing more advanced?
Those I was just mentioning are pretty typical, I'd say.
But then there are all kinds of other cool classes, too. Here are a few spicier examples from last year: Homotopy colimits, Classifying complex semisimple Lie algebras, and How not to prove the Continuum Hypothesis.
What are some of the more advanced classes?
Those last few are very very spicy.
Are there other competition math-oriented courses?
A few, yes. We try to run one problem-solving class a week.
are there any competitions in camp?
There are two weekly problem-solving competitions at camp, and both are team competitions. (Participation, like everything else at camp, is optional!) More about problem solving at camp: https://www.mathcamp.org/math/problem_solving/
Isaac/16/Illinois: what will Time Academic Unscheduled for VMC look like?
Is it compulsory to attend TAU? Asking because the time zone difference makes it very difficult to attend from India
So, the office hours at camp are called, as some folks have noted, TAU – Time, Academic, Unscheduled. It's not required to come to TAU, but most people do: it's when you can find instructors and fellow students to talk about your classes or projects.
We try to make VMC TAU look a little like residential-camp TAU: you can mill around, find folks to work with, and collaborate (online!) with peers and teachers.
how can you fit in all of the classes that you do?
How many classes do students take at a time (and how much time a day does each class take up)? Sorry if this has been answered already.
Are classes more of a "drop in once and learn and then take a different one the next day" kind of thing, or do you sign up for a fixed set of classes at the start of camp and then stick with those classes throughout the 5 weeks?
Are the classes spanning over a week or weeks? Can you change courses?
All good questions! Let's see if I can answer them together:
Before each week starts, you'll get a schedule and descriptions of all the upcoming classes: usually it's 5 options per hour, in each of the 3 hour-long class blocks of the day. You'll then have a chance to meet with your Academic Advisor (a staff member with whom you're paired at the start of camp - see https://www.mathcamp.org/math/academic_advising/) to discuss what you want to take. Every week, you get to repeat this process: reflect on the previous week, decide what you want to do for the upcoming week, and pick the classes you think you'll want to take.
You get to decide how many classes to take, and there's no min or max.
How big are the classes typically? meaning how many students are there in a classroom?
That varies widely, because you don't have to register for classes - you just show up. So, a small class might just be a handful of students, and a big class might be 40 campers.
Is there a performance based aspect in choosing classes?
Theoretically, would it be possible to take 2 classes at the same time? What about every class?
I'm not sure what performance-based means, but perhaps you mean style?
So classes are more lecture style than interactive?
how many classes can you take at a time?
So, addressing all of these: hypothetically, you *could* take a class every hour (e.g. 9 - 9:50, 10 - 10:50...), and some campers choose to. Generally, though, we encourage you to take a break at some point so you don't get overloaded (and to have some time to think about and absorb the math in the classes you do take).
The style really varies. Our faculty get to pick not just their course topics, but also their approach to teaching: some give more traditionally-structured classes, with a presentation by the instructor every day, and others might not involve any lecture at all! Lots of our classes focus on inquiry-based learning, where the students themselves are the ones discovering concepts, solving problems, and presenting proofs. Some students really like these interactive classes and some don't, so we make sure to offer classes in a variety of different styles.
Do you have any personal favorite classes?
Mira's Information Theory class is wildly popular for a good reason.
When will doing math projects take place? does it replace classes in the schedule?
what do projects look like?
Some classes might touch on open problems in research mathematics, and there's also the opportunity to pursue a topic in depth. These could be reading projects in a particular field or original research projects on a topic, or a variety of lighter options. You'll certainly have access to instructors and faculty who can talk with you at great lengths about research, but overall, research is not the primary focus of Mathcamp. Occasionally, these projects become the basis for papers or STS/Davidson/etc. submissions (but only when a student is very motivated!). Here's more about projects: https://www.mathcamp.org/math/projects/
Stephen/16/NJ: Are classes recorded if I'd like to watch some lectures that I didn't sign up?
Generally, no. An individual instructor might decide to record a portion for their students, or ask their students about recording a part of their class session for some reason, but that would be unusual. We believe that students feel more free to participate fully when they're not being recorded for posterity.
How is the food? lol
Stephen/16/Chatham, NJ: What are some social activities at VMC?
do you have field trips?
There are tons of social activities at camp, and the baking ones have particularly good food.
The JCs (those are the undergrads who are camp counselors at Mathcamp) invented all manner of virtual "field trips" last year – they were incredibly creative, from an on-campus scavenger hunt to a role-playing mystery game. I've been reading in counselors' job applications about the new ideas folks have for 2021, and they're definitely planning to step it up yet again for this year. But we'll be preserving my favorite tradition: the annual Puzzle Hunt (https://www.mathcamp.org/past_summers/hunt/).
Do you have classes that involve graph theory?
About how much time a day is there to spend time with friends and yourself?
There's a lot of flexibility in the schedule; you can spend as much time with friends and solo as you would like.
Just so I know I got it right, this year will be online?
The majority of your 2020 class is in the 16-17 age groups. Is it because that's the time or grade levels the prerequisites have been completed in high school?
That's typically the case, yes.
do you have hikes or anything?
At residential Mathcamp, yes. In this era when camp is online, we have to get a little more creative.
Last year, there was a running group, which was especially awesome; the goal was, as a group, to run from Portland, Oregon (site of Mathcamp 2019) to Golden, Colorado (site of Mathcamp 2018). We kept a spreadsheet in which everybody logged their runs (or hikes, or treadmill walks, or wheelchair rolls… the agreement was "any time you moved somewhere under your own motor power"), in kilometers or miles as was appropriate in your region, and optional hilarious commentary ("i saw a little boy with a water gun"; "Night runs hit different (a few bugs got in my mouth but it was worth it)").
Here is a picture of a part-way point:
(Maybe you can't tell, but that's our running route on the left and that's the landmark we have currently reached on the right. This was a snapshot from Slack. Anyway.)
Do you think mathcamp will continue VMC alongside its in-person camp perhaps next year and the year after that
We plan to return to in-person camp as soon as we can, and I don't think we'll have the bandwidth to run VMC in parallel, but one never knows.
How many teachers are there aprox?
is it free?
The cost for our 2021 program will be between $0 and $1,500, depending on 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.
We give lots of partial and full scholarships, as well as technology grants, to both US and international students.
The bottom line: don't let money prevent you from applying. For lots of details about scholarships: https://www.mathcamp.org/admission/scholarships/
How do you meet people if you don’t know anyone?
That's a great question. Everybody at Mathcamp is smart and cool and interesting to talk to. Campers and staff all tell us that the community is the best part, and that was even true last summer at VMC. Of course it’s harder on Zoom, but we held lots of events that let students interact in small groups, and gradually people did get to know each other. Everyone was surprised at how well it worked, but it really worked!
We also helped students get to know each other in the weeks leading up to camp, which helped us foster a sense of community from the start.
Are any JC's younger than undergrads?
You have to be at least a year out of high school to be a JC.
(And also a Mathcamp alum.)
Is finnancial aid given based on mathematical ability or financial situation of the family? Does it affect your chances of getting in?
Financial aid is need-based, and has no impact on your chances of getting in. (The admissions committee can't even see whether you have requested a scholarship.)
In general, what percent of campers return the next year?
Hmm, that's a stat I actually don't know off the top of my head. I would guess 40%.
How can students prepare (from math point of view) for the camp?
If you're thinking about preparation for the application process, your best preparation is to take a look at past Qualifying Quizzes. We've discussed the solutions to many of the problems in previous Math Jams, so you can get some insight into the kinds of solutions that we're looking for. In terms of content, we only expect you to use the math you learned in high school (up through Precalculus)... plus, of course, a lot of creative thinking! Here's a link to past Quizzes: https://www.mathcamp.org/qualifying_quiz/past_quizzes/
In terms of preparing for Mathcamp's classes: aside from getting very comfortable with the concepts from high school math, the best preparation is diving into whatever math is exciting to you right now.
How are the returning campers determined? Is it their choice or is there some type of a test they need to pass?
Nope, you just sign up to return. Once you become an alum, you don't have to reapply.
How does this simulation of physical spaces work at VMC? I'm reading the website:
"Around the campus, you'll find many "outdoor" spaces, complete with a quad, swings, playing fields, an orchard, and a garden. We have two major 'buildings' on campus: the classroom building (where your online classes will meet) and the dorm"
and I'm slightly confused by what this means by "quad, swings," etc. Are there things like separate Zoom links for different rooms, or does it somehow work differently? Thanks!
Ah, this is an interesting question. Let me give you an example. Last year, there was "caffeine time" every morning in the kitchen:
And in the kitchen, there was a link to an embedded Zoom room.
Can students from any country apply (for example chile) or the ones listed on the website?
Students from everywhere are welcome to apply!
What are some of the nonacademic activities offered?
Oh, wow, where to start. We ran so many events this summer! Singing, dancing, collaborative solitaire....
That is really imaginative!
Does the cost depend on the number of classes you take?
Nope, not at all; the tuition is all-inclusive.
OK! Thanks for all the questions about the program, everybody.
Let's spend about 8:15 - 8:45 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.)
About how many applicants are there a year?
It varies from year to year, but several hundred.
How many people get in a year?
We take about 65 new students.
(It depends on how many returning alums there are.)
Does being a USAMO qualifier help with admissions?(along with the admission test?)
In terms of admissions, contest scores are not a significant criterion for us—we use our own Qualifying Quiz instead—so we don't keep track of statistics on our campers.
If you are a returning student, do you have to reapply?
Nope, alumni can just sign up to return without reapplying.
Is the number of accepted applicants larger because it is virtual?
No, we are keeping camp the same size.
Is it necessary to do all of the problems on the QQ to be accepted?
About how many questions should we aim for on the qualifying quiz?
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.
In broad strokes: most successful applicants do 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.
Do you think there will be more or less applicants because this year is virtual?
I do not know the answer to this question and am terrifically curious to find out.
Do you start looking at applications before the due date (i.e. rolling process, the earlier submitted the better)?
Nope: we start reviewing all the applications at the same time. All applications received by the deadline get equal consideration.
Is it too late to start the qualifying quiz?
No, not at all!
The problems are meant to be thought-provoking and they'll take some time, but there are still several weeks before the deadline.
do we need a full solution for a problem or can we write up a partial one/our ideas?
You can write up partial solutions, too! Everything counts.
Is the financial aid need-based or need-blind?
Financial aid is entirely need-based. Admission is need-blind.
How long should our essays be?
What does the application essay require?
The essay is really a flexible space – you can write as much as you like (but keep in mind the patience of the reader). It's your opportunity to speak directly with the admissions committee, and tell us about yourself and your interests.
On average, how many questions on the qualifying quiz are answered (from accepted students)?
It really varies from year to year, but successful applicants usually solve at least half the problems.
Do you grade the quiz using a point-based system?
No, it's a little more complicated than that. 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. So that's hard to write in a number of points.
Is March 18th the deadline for recommendations as well?
How do recommendation letters work?
Academic recommendations should be written by a teacher, and personal recommendations by an adult who knows you in another context. Here's a page with lots more details and suggestions: https://www.mathcamp.org/admission/recommendations/. If you have an unusual recommendation situation not covered by that page, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll discuss individually what's right for you.
Do you have many applicants who were rejected in prior years?
Yes! Lots of people apply more than once, and we give special consideration to students who apply multiple times. It shows tenacity.
Is there a word limit on any of the question prompts?
No, just keep in mind that brevity is nice.
What are some repetitive topics you get on personal essays a lot?
A lot of applicants write stories about math competitions failures and successes. This can be very moving or fun, of course! But it is definitely a common theme.
How many people look at each application?
Interesting question! A lot, actually: there are about 20 first-pass readers and typically about 10 people on the admissions committee.
When you said that successful applicants usually solve at least half the problems, did you mean full problems or parts of each problem?
I mean a complete or mostly-complete solution.
so emphasizing our own personality and interests is more important than contest results, etc
Contest results can indeed be part of your mathematical biography, and that can be very helpful for us. But your personality and interests are more likely to help us figure out if Mathcamp is a good fit for you.
What do you recomend that we put in the essay. (As your personal opinion)
I want to know what you care about!
Can middle schoolers get scholarships?
Yes, all students are eligible for financial aid – all ages, new and returning, US and Canadian and international.
How much math should we know or what classes should we have taken?
We expect applicants to have finished Precalculus by the time camp starts. (It can be self-study, or an AoPS class, or a school class.)
So in the future, if I don't get in, until what point can I apply? Until I graduate from high school or until I'm 18?
Students can apply up to the summer after they finish high school.
how much is re-using recommendations frowned upon
It's not a big deal; people regularly reuse recs. But keep in mind that new letters can be an opportunity to share with us what's new for you.
Do you interview applicants?
Only on rare occasion, if we really need to learn something we can't get from the written application. (We unfortunately don't have the bandwidth to interview all the candidates.)
Is it okay to use math past pre-calculus on the quiz?
Has the recommendation letter have to be before the deadline?
How can we check what status our recs are at? Like, it only shows if we provided the email
The system should indicate when your letters are received. Feel free to email techsupport if you have questions.
How do you re-use recommendations?
If you have applied before, the system should recognize you and offer you the option to reuse a letter. (Again, email techsupport if not.)
How much is re-using past essays (or parts of past essays) frowned upon?
You certainly can, but I encourage you to use the essay to update us.
do recommendations have to be from current math teacher?
No, there are lots of options for your academic rec letter writer! A teacher, a coach, an instructor from a summer math program- any mathematical mentor who can speak to your skills and background.
When should we submit the email addresses of the recommenders, before or with the rest of the application? (And where?)
This is part of the online application.
what is the typical size (word count) of an essay? Apologies if this was asked previously.
I'd say about a page.
when will you notify students if they are accepted?
We will announce admissions decisions on April 21st.
Ethan/13/Hamilton, Canada: Who can write me a reference letter?
Here's some advice about rec letter writers: https://www.mathcamp.org/admission/recommendations/
What do you recommend we learn before applying
We expect all Mathcamp students to be comfortable with high-school math through Precalculus. (Many applicants have already seen lots of Calculus, but others have not, and there are plenty of classes that do not require this.) 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.
How long do we get to accept or reject coming to the camp(assumung we are admitted)?
After we release admissions decisions (on April 21st), the deadline to register will be May 21st.
What do you look for in the personal statement?
We're just looking to get to know you!
About how long are successful applicants' documents/work of the qualifying quiz?
Oh, wow, that varies a lot. Sometimes, very sophisticated solutions are very short. Other times, they're very long.
what are the attributes you are looking for in a successful applicant?
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.
What kind of qualities do you look for in a camper? Curiosity and/or mathematical maturity in terms of proofs?
what do you mean by "mathematical maturity"?
So, when you apply to Mathcamp, we don't ask for transcripts or standardized test scores (because we don't think they will help us to predict which applicants are ready for Mathcamp classes). Instead, we use the Quiz and your academic recommendation letter to give us a picture of your preparation.
The Quiz is untimed because we've designed it to be more like a research project than like a competition, so we don't grade it like a competition. You can think of it as something to work on slowly. We're hoping your solutions will show us whether you're ready for Mathcamp's classes- that's what we mean by maturity.
Is it okay to ask a humanities teacher or school-associated advisor for a personal letter of recommendation? (considering that the pandemic has prevented a lot of extracurricular socialization with adults)
Sure, as long as that person has gotten to interact with you outside of the classroom.
How heavily are the AMC scores weighed? (Since the 10a will probably be released before the due date)
Competition scores aren't a big deal for us. The Mathcamp application has an optional box for you to tell us about your competition background, but it's not a major part of the application. (There are plenty of Mathcampers who left that box blank when they applied!) It's just one more way for us to learn about the kinds of math that you do.
If an applicant is accepted this year but can't make it, do they have to apply again next year if they plan to join?
Yes, generally speaking.
What is the average age for campers?
I believe that the mean, median, and mode are all 16.
if im a middle schooler will reccomendations be less important?
Recommendations are important for everyone!
My math teacher does not write letters this year. Also none of my teachers this year have interacted with me outside of school. Can I ask an old math teacher (from a couple of years ago), to write a letter of rec?
As long as you think they can accurately represent you, that's just fine.
(A teacher from 3rd grade, probably not such a good pick. Last year, totally good.)
What is a typical background of an admitted student - academics, extracurricular, etc.?
Oh, this varies SO much, and that's part of what makes Mathcamp interesting: the community is incredibly broad and made up of all kinds of people.
When is the deadline
The deadline to apply is March 18th – about a month away!
For the Qualifying Quizzes, is there a certain score that needs to be met?
About how many questions should we aim for on the admission quiz?
is there a certain number of questions one has to solve to get in?
There's no minimum score. But we encourage you to try all the problems!
Do you have a fixed percentage of international vs US and Canada students or does it change year to year?
It changes a little from year to year; there are no quotas.
It seems that the only a couple of 13 to 14 years old students got accepted into the program. Would you mind sharing some of their special talents or unique qualities?
When younger students qualify for Mathcamp, it's because they're just as prepared as their older peers who are applying.
Do you have to do proofs (if you’re bad at them)? How formal do the proofs have to be? Also, if you are close to an answer but not completely done, is that ok to submit?
Lots of us feel like we're bad at proofs sometimes. Your proofs for the Mathcamp Quiz don't have to be in the most formal language you can muster; they just need to be clear, precise, and as complete as you can make them.
You're welcome to submit partial progress, and I encourage you to say what you do and don't know about a problem.
Thank you for giving such a good description of the camp. You have truly been very detailed and descriptive. I am excited to apply.
Wow, thank you so much!
What is the typical acceptance rate?
It's usually around 10-15%, but it varies from year to year based on the # of applications.
(And the # of open spots.)
and just thanks to all the mods they really never get a shoutout.
I know, right?? Yay team.
Okay! Thanks, everybody, for all the questions about the application process.
The field is open for *any* questions you have about Mathcamp, and we'll wrap up at 9pm ET.
If for some reason, you can't make it to class one day, what do you do?
That's not a big deal; you can talk with your instructor and they'll help you catch up. (TAU is often a good time to catch them.)
how are new students to the program introduced and welcomed? I imagine it can be intimidating and potentially overwhelming for new students, especially if they don't know anyone..
That's such a great question. One thing we do is introduce students (and staff) to one another first in the spring, via our Slack workspace. (Slack is like Discord but with message threads.) The campers organized lots of pre-camp activities to get to know people with similar interests.
That way, by day 1, you already know lots of familiar faces.
Can we directly pick from the vegetable garden and eat the vegetables that we can eat raw whenever we are hungry?
What if I picked a class and want to change to another one later? Is that possible?
You don't have to formally register for classes, so if you decide after the first day of a class that you'd rather do something else, you can just go to a different class on the next day. It's a little like how add/drop works in college: you can test out classes and see what you like. The instructors will be happy to chat with you in office hours if you missed the first day of a class but want to catch up and then join on the second day.
Of the age groups and how many campers were in each age group, what were the girl/boy ratios in the age groups?
I think that gender ratios are pretty balanced across the age groups.
Is there an end of the year project/test, or is it a series of classes?
There are no tests at all
Are most participants extremely talented in math?
I usually think of it as: most participants are extremely passionate about math! But they're talented, too.
how experienced are the teachers?
The teachers are awesome. Many of them have been at Mathcamp for 10-20 years, and some of them are brand-new each year, and everybody is really experienced at communicating interesting math.
Do returning students go to the same classes as first timers?
There's no stratification by age or new/alum status at camp, academically or socially: each student gets to decide which classes and events they attend, and we don't impose any restrictions for who can participate in what (based on age, or anything else).
Do you expect that it will be more difficult to keep children engaged with long hours of computer rather than in person interactive classes? What has your experience between in the last edition?
We definitely think a lot about Zoom fatigue. Five weeks is a long time to be participating in an immersive online program, and it's definitely possible to get burned out. (And we're all tired of looking at screens!) That's why the Mathcamp schedule is very flexible: you choose how much time to spend on Zoom. In my experience, people's choices varied a lot last summer and each student struck the balance that worked for them.
what does the homework load usually look like for classes?
Since doing math is often the best way to learn math, many classes will hand out problems at the end of each day. Sometimes, these problems will introduce new definitions or concepts, and you absolutely need to keep up with the homework to keep up with the class. For most classes, though, the homework falls somewhere on the scale between optional and recommended: it's a good way to reinforce the material, but not necessarily mission-critical. (Each class will indicate how important the homework is to understanding the material, so you'll get to take this into account when designing your class schedule.)
Homework at camp is not like typical high-school math homework: it's never boring! So hopefully you will want to work on your problem sets outside of class, regardless of whether it's necessary to keep up.
is there still gonna be a talent show in online mathcamp?
Is prior success with competitive math (AMCs) a prerequisite for applying?
About how old are the JC's?
Stephen/16/NJ: Do you have campers continue a project with your instructors after the camp? Do your instructors write rec letters for colleges or other programs?
Sometimes projects do continue after camp, yes. And we do write a zillion recommendations.
This is a high school and middle school camp, correct?
For VMC, is the number of accepted people the same or different compared to previous years when it was in person?
It was about the same last year as in a typical year.
Would VMC this year allow a student to, for instance, attend sports practice every evening or is the time commitment just too much?
Yes and no. On the one hand, students always design their own schedule at Mathcamp, and it’s completely up to you how you spend your time. Technically, you can fit in other commitments as well, and there’s no reason to stop, say, your weekly piano lessons or nightly sports practice.
On the other hand, Mathcamp is meant to be a full-time, immersive experience, even when it’s virtual. This is really really important to us, and our students last summer confirmed that it really worked! So we are asking every student at least to give Mathcamp a chance to be truly a full-time commitment.
But if you fill your days with other commitments from the start, then you are really not giving Mathcamp a chance! You are basically deciding in advance that you will miss out on some of the most important aspects of Mathcamp: the friendships and the sense of community (not to mention all the interesting, wacky, and fun things that are happening at every hour of the day and night).
But as long as you think of Mathcamp as full-time in spirit, then continuing your regular daily and weekly commitments to music, sports, etc. is totally fine. Students practice their instruments and do sports at residential Mathcamp as well.
are there classes for subjects besides math?
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 connections between math and related fields, like computer science and physics. Last year, for example, we had classes on Markov chains and random walks, Math and literature, Complexity theory, Quantum mechanics, Voting theory 101, and "Let's reverse-engineer photoshop." (Here's a big list: https://www.mathcamp.org/2020/classes/ )
Being online, will it be possible to attend 2 math summer programs in the same summer and did anyone do that last year?
No, that's not really possible with Mathcamp; it really is a full-time commitment for the five weeks of camp.
Joy/parent/Michigan: Can you give me some examples of the optional (non maths) activities that were popular in 2020?
Yes! Let's see. Campers and staff organized lots of ways to stay active, separately-but-together. There was, among other things, a ton of hip-hop cardio. There were tons of music events: campers and staff often organize musicals / Disney / Taylor Swift / etc singalongs (zoom karaoke, it's a choice), and we did some recording together last year of choral music (less goofy more dignified). I also ran a weekly singing-around-the-campfire activity where people brought guitars and ukuleles and played songs for one another.
There were lots of cooking/baking events, where people voted on a recipe to make together, cooked/baked while hanging out on Zoom, and posted instagram-worthy photos of their creations on Slack afterwards.
And that's just the tip of the iceberg. There were board game groups, philosophy discussion groups, anti-racism book groups, people taking walks separately-but-together, pancake making, blue tape bowling...
The best part of camp is the creativity of the community.
How old is mathcamp?
Our first summer was 1993.
If we have any specific questions to ask, where is a good place to contact/message on AOPS or on Mathcamp Website?
You can email us here: https://www.mathcamp.org/contact_us/
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