Canada/USA Mathcamp is a five-week academic summer program for middle and high school students with talent and passion for mathematics. Rather than training students for contests or providing courses for credit, Mathcamp introduces students to the various branches of advanced mathematics ("cool math") they are otherwise unlikely to discover until well into their college years.
Mathcamp was founded in 1993 by Dr. George Thomas, who recognized that students interested in mathematics frequently lacked the resources and camaraderie to pursue their interest. Mira Bernstein became the director when Thomas left in 2002 to found MathPath, a program for younger students.
Mathcamp is held each year on a different college campus in the United States or Canada. Past locations have included the University of Toronto, the University of Washington, Colorado College, Reed College, University of Puget Sound, Colby College, the University of British Columbia and Mount Holyoke College. Mathcamp enrolls about 120 students yearly, 45-55 returning and 65-75 new.
The application process for new students includes an entrance exam (the "Qualifying Quiz"), personal essay, and two letters of recommendation, but no grade reports. The process helps ensure that the students who are most passionate about math come to camp. Admission is selective: In 2015, the acceptance rate was 20%.
Classes at Mathcamp come in four designations of pace and difficulty. The milder classes often include basic proof techniques, number theory, graph theory, and combinatorial game theory, while the spicier classes cover advanced topics in abstract algebra, topology, theoretical computer science, category theory, and mathematical analysis. There are generally four class periods each day and five classes offered during each period, allowing students to create a custom schedule of classes that match their interests and background. Graduate student mentors teach most of the classes, while undergraduate junior counselors, all of them Mathcamp alumni, do most of the behind-the-scenes work. Each year there are a number of renowned guest speakers, who have included John Conway, Avi Wigderson, and Serge Lang.
Since Mathcamp is as much designed to let students interested in mathematics meet each other as for them to meet math, staff and campers organize a number of non-mathematical events such as field trips, hikes, a puzzle hunt, and game tournaments. The campers also enjoy a great deal of freedom and are expected to act responsibly. In this way, Mathcamp often eases the transition to the full freedom and responsibility of college.
Mathcamp culture is best described as quirky and fun-loving. In 2004, some campers created Foodtongue, a constructed language in which every word is a word that means a food in the English language. One of the cardinal rules of the language is an agreed ban of direct translation. Foodtongue remains popular among campers, and there now exists an active wiki, updated and referenced by speakers of the language, many of them campers from later years.
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- "FoodTongue Avocado Pilaf". FoodTongue Wiki. 2009-02-24. Retrieved 2009-02-25.
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