Finding Nirvana in Numbers
Mathcamp is a summer math enrichment program for high school students that boasts an incredible alumni base of mathematicians, whose instructors are also something of a dream team. They move campuses from summer to summer, and are able to roll out each summer's program flawlessly. The program seems to be so successful, that I suspect it is now run completely by alums.
One wonderful thing about how Mathcamp is organized, is that this flexibility makes it replicable to some extent. Take for example Mathpath, a similar program, but for middle school students. Also, the Summer Program in Mathematical Problem Solving (SPMPS) for underserved middle school students. In some sense, both these programs "spawned" off of Mathcamp.
In high school, I attended a similar program: The Hampshire College Summer Studies in Mathematics or HCSSiM. The Hampshire program, run by Hampshire College math professor David Kelly, has raised generations of mathematicians and also has an incredible group of alumni. Honestly, you can't swing a dead cat at a math conference without hitting a HCSSiM alum. (Please don't bring your dead cat to the next math conference. Bring a yellow pig.)
The HCSSiM program seems less replicable, but that hasn't stopped alums who are recently getting started in the growing Math Circle movement. Take, for example, the New York Math Circle (NYMC), which has programming for high school and middle school students (and also teachers; more information on that soon!) and in Chicago, the soon-to-arrive Payton Math Circle. Another fairly recent math enrichment program started by an HCSSiM alum is the Math Prize for Girls contest. The Math Prize for Girls is working hard to encourage girls to achieve at the highest levels by offering incredible cash prizes. Check out their new blog! These efforts all involve HCSSiM alumni.
Out of curiosity, if you know of other math enrichment groups run by HCSSiM alums, please leave me a comment.
All of these math enrichment opportunities are wonderful, but still out of reach for most students who show interest, motivation and potential in mathematics. The Math Prize for Girls is a step in the right direction, and an even more ambitious project is the Summer Program in Mathematical Problem Solving mentioned above.
How can the math community provide enrichment opportunities to underserved students who are just out of the loop? (Please leave me a comment if you have an idea). Is the notion of mathematical talent, so often mentioned, actually damaging, as my friend Ben Blum-Smith suggests in his blog? How could mathematical resources best be used to offer high quality math enrichment to interested students? What about students are apathetic or traumatized by math?
I plan to come back to these topics and more, so stay tuned!