Canada/USA Mathcamp is an intensive 5-week-long summer program for mathematically talented high school students, designed to inspire and motivate mathematically talented high school students by exposing them to the beauty and variety of mathematics, and to impart valuable knowledge and skills for the pursuit of mathematics in high school, university, and beyond.
The environment of Mathcamp tends to be relaxed in terms of rules; in fact, Mathcamp officially has only four rules (generally invoking common sense and respect). Students have the freedom and flexibility to choose what classes and activities they wish to participate in: everything at Mathcamp is optional. This system works only because of the maturity of its participants, and the admissions process looks for evidence of emotional maturity as well as mathematical maturity.
Mathcamp was founded in Vancouver, Canada in 1993 by Dr. George Thomas. At that time, there were only two students. By 1994, there were eleven students. However, by 1996 the enrollment list grew to over 90 students, as Mathcamp had moved to the United States. Dr. T (as he is known) later left in order to establish MathPath, so Mira Bernstein became the new Director in 1998.
So far Mathcamp has been at the University of Toronto, the University of British Columbia, the University of Puget Sound, the University of Washington, Colorado College, Reed College, and Colby College. In 2010, it will be at Mount Holyoke College. The administration hopes that Mathcamp will converge to a periodic cycle through 3 colleges every three years.
Students hoping to qualify for admission start their applications with an 5-10-question "Qualifying Quiz" of open-ended proof questions. Completion of all of the questions is definitely not a requirement; instead the selection process is more interested with the proofs and the manner in which the problems are attacked.
In addition, two recommendations (personal and academic) are required, as well as a short essay written by the student about why they wish to attend camp.
The solutions to the application quiz are presented by chosen students sometime during Week 2 or Week 3.
Once a student has qualified for camp, they need not apply again: Alumni are invited to return without reapplying.
Mathcamp provides financial assistance to more than half its students, determined on the basis of need. The average assistance for supported students is more than half the camp fee, including a number of full scholarships.
Mathcamp also offers $200 scholarships to any student placing among the top 30 boys or top 30 girls on USAMTS.
Every day of the Mathcamp week (Tuesday through Saturday), there are four periods of 50 minutes each in which students may take classes. Note that classes are not mandatory, and in fact it is encouraged that students do not fill up their schedules so that they have greater time to ponder about ideas they learned.
In the afternoon, there is a 2 hour period known as TAU (Time, Academic -- Unscheduled), where students work on homework and ask questions (to mentors or peers) regarding mathematical topics. Then there is Colloquium, a one hour lecture often delivered by an invited mathematician. John Conway is a distinguished mathematician who comes to Mathcamp every summer (and is a popular colloquium speaker).
Classes tend to have an emphasis on subjects in mathematics that are normally beyond the scope of high school math; instead, most of the subjects are more likely to be found in college math.
Outside of courses, field trips are organized for most weekends (Sundays and Mondays); typical field trips include hiking, white water rafting, sea kayaking, amusement parks, museums and trips to nearby cities (like Seattle and Boston). There are many other non-mathematical events like game tournaments of various sorts. Games like Ultimate Frisbee, Dominion, Mafia, Mao, and Bughouse tend to be highly popular.