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Math Whizzes: Apply Here

March 16, 2011

A friend whose middle schooler loves math asked for recommendations about summer programs, because I had told her that my son went to a math camp.   Here’s the information I passed on to her:

  1. Garden of Constants at The OSU

    Ross Mathematics Program, Ohio State University, Columbus OH:   The granddaddy of these programs.  (#2 and #3 are modeled after this program.)   First-years are ages 14-18

  2. Texas Honors Summer Math Camp, San Marcos TX :   My son attended for 2 years, was a junior counselor two years ago, and will be a counselor this year.  (If you have a student who wants to go here, I would offer to have him fly with my son, but counselors have to arrive 1-2 days early; however, they might be able to fly back together.  Counselors will pick up campers at the airport.)  Curriculum is heavy on numbers theory, proofs, and other topics not usually covered in high school, but which are part of a mathematics undergraduate degree.   The population of campers here includes a heavy dose of students who have been successful in MathCounts, usually including some who have competed at the national level.
  3. PROMYS, Boston University, MA:  Also modeled after the Ross Program.
  4. Canada/USA Math Camp:  Differs from the 3 programs above in that students get to pick which seminars they want to participate in, rather than having a specific 1st year or 2nd year curriculum.   Locations rotate between Reed College in Portland OR, Colby College in ME, and one other site (Tacoma WA?).
  5. Awesome Math, UTD, Dallas TX   Run by the Romanian who started the American Math Competition (AMC) and who led the USA Math Olympiad team to its only gold medal, this camp is – I suspect – more focused on preparation for competition than any of the others.

There are two camps that are limited to younger students:

  1. Epsilon, Colorado College:   NEW this year – for the exceptionally (EG) and profoundly (PG) gifted, ages 8 to 10 years old.  This new camp will be directed by Dr. George Thomas, founder of Mathpath and Canada/USA Mathcamp. Epsilon Camp combines an intellectually rigorous student camp running in parallel with a parent workshop addressing the concerns and challenges of raising EG/PG children.
  2. Mathpath, Colorado College:  for middle school students, aged 11 to 14.   Enrichment-focused curriculum covers hyperbolic geometry, writing in mathematics, heuristics of problem solving and proof methods.

So why would a student want to go to one of these camps?

  • To learn math topics that won’t be covered in school
  • To spend time with other kids who really love math
  • To match wits with mathematicians
  • To figure out whether they want to major in math in college.  (Mathematicians spend more time doing proofs; much as I love the MathCounts program, its high-speed competitive environment is not like anything real mathematicians do.)

All of the programs are competitive in terms of getting in.  (E.g., this is definitely for the gifted math kids.)   The application processes start early in the spring semester.  They are also expensive, usually a couple thousand dollars plus airfare for a 6 week program.

At most of these programs, prior attendees can apply to be counselors.   Junior counselors may pay about half price and help lead a study group; counselors earn money.  So, over the years, you might recoup some of the costs of attendance and your child gets something good to add to his/her resume, especially if he decides to be a mathematician.

Unfortunately for Montanans, all the programs for older students at least 2 flights away, but I suspect they all provide transportation from their nearest airport since they all draw students nationally. MathPath picks up campers at Denver airport, which is only 1 flight away, but that’s only for younger students.

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