Although generally known as just ‘Mathcamp’, its full title is Canada/USA Mathcamp and describes itself as ‘an immersive summer experience for mathematically talented students ages 13-18 from all over the world.’The programme provides a challenging and stimulating environment where students can learn and explore mathematics beyond the standard school curriculum.
Overview of Mathcamp
Lasting for five weeks each summer, Mathcamp moves from one venue to another each year. The venue for Mathcamp 2023 is Champlain College, Vermont, next year’s venue will be announced when applications open in January 2024. Participants spend the summer exploring mathematical thinking alongside other young people who share a love for math. There is no set curriculum at Mathcamp. Students are encouraged to identify their interests across both pure and applied mathematics and then choose from a list of options, the courses that will enable them to explore those interests further.
In addition to the course selection, Mathcamp runs regular problem-solving competitions as well as more practical workshops where they seek to apply some of the work that students have been working on. Students are encouraged to undertake a project as a way of exploring a topic in greater depth. These projects may be suggested by the individual student, or they may choose to take up a project proposed by one of the faculty members. Either way, the student will be allocated a staff mentor to support their work. At the end of Mathcamp, there is a Project Fair where each project is presented to everybody. For some, their project may continue beyond the end of Mathcamp and can, in time, result in a published paper.
Another element of Mathcamp is what they call ‘Colloquia’ (meaning an academic discussion). These are one hour talks that take place each day where visiting lecturers of faculty members introduce students to less familiar branches of math, unusual applications of mathematical approaches or cutting edge research that is being undertaken.
Courses don’t run during the evenings or at weekends, providing participants with the opportunity to prepare for their next course or relax in the company of other students. College dorms are used for student accommodation and there are residential staff to help out with any difficulties people have. Informal activities are a regular feature of student life, including sports, competitions and quizzes.
Entry requirements and cost
Mathcamp is open to high school and middle school students from around the world between the ages of 13 and 18 and can demonstrate a passion for maths. Typically, applicants will have a strong background in algebra, geometry, trigonometry, exponents and logarithms, as well as a passion for exploring the subject beyond the standard school curriculum.
In addition to academic ability, Mathcamp looks for students who are highly motivated and who have a genuine interest in mathematics. Students are expected to have a strong work ethic and to be willing to collaborate with their peers to solve complex mathematical problems.
In 2023 the cost of attending Mathcamp is USD 5,000, however, most people attending will pay less than that amount as there is generous needs based financial aid available for domestic students from America and Canada and for international students as well. The cost includes tuition, room, board, extracurricular activities and local transport, including being picked up from the local airport.
How to Apply
Applications for Mathcamp open in mid January and need to be submitted by early March. To complete the application, students first need to create an online account where they will provide some basic information about themselves and their school and their background in maths. There is a single essay where they ask applicants to tell the admissions team a bit more about themselves, their interest in Maths and why they want to attend Mathcamp. Applicants are asked to submit the email addresses of two people who can provide recommendation letters, one of these will be a teacher, normally a Maths teacher, while the second person should be somebody who knows the applicant outside of school and can comment on their maturity, independence, social and personal qualities.
The other part of the application is the Quiz which is the centerpiece of the Mathcamp application. The quiz takes the form of up to ten questions that are designed to challenge the applicant’s mathematical thinking, it is not so much about getting the answers correct as the reasoning the applicant followed to get there. The questions get progressively more difficult the further you go. There is no requirement to complete all of the questions, but clearly, the more you complete the stronger your application. With that in mind, we would always recommend anybody intending to apply to start the application process early and give themselves plenty of time to complete all the necessary components.
Competitiveness and Types of Students Accepted
Each year, Mathcamp opens its doors to 120 students made up of a mix of new and previous students. It is a highly competitive programme, and only a small percentage of applicants are accepted each year. However, the programme is designed to be accessible to a wide range of students, and the programme takes great care to create a diverse and inclusive community of learners.
Successful applicants come from a wide range of backgrounds and cultures, and the programme seeks to foster a sense of community and collaboration among all participants.
What they all have in common is that they are absorbed in maths. Students will have already studied maths to a high level in school and then be able to demonstrate their passion for the subject through additional work that goes beyond what they will have covered in the school curriculum. Students that have been selected in the past will perhaps be actively involved in a maths circle and maybe are working on mathematical proofs with a graduate maths student. First and foremost, students need to eat, live and breathe their passion for maths. participants spend all day, every day doing maths. If that does not appeal to you, then Mathcamp is not going to be a good way to spend the summer.
In summary, Mathcamp is an exceptional summer programme designed for mathematically talented students who have a passion for exploring the subject beyond the standard school curriculum. If you are looking for a programme that will open your eyes to new possibilities in mathematics, then Mathcamp could well be for you. Previous students eulogise about their experience and the wide variety of fellow maths geeks they meet during the camp who become firm friends.
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