Mathcamp 2020 will run online: Learn more.

Virtual Mathcamp FAQ

Last updated 4/16/2020

Mathcamp 2020 will take place online. This is a new and exciting adventure for us, and we are building a brand-new platform for Virtual Mathcamp. While many details are yet to be decided, and we will be taking the input of our students into account when designing the program, here's what we know so far about policies and pre-camp planning.

The Basics

What are the dates and tuition of Virtual Mathcamp 2020?

The dates are unchanged: Sunday, July 5 to Sunday, August 9, 2020. The full tuition for Virtual Mathcamp will be $1,500, which allows us to pay our excellent summer staff. Our deep commitment to providing scholarships remains unchanged.

Is financial aid available for Virtual Mathcamp?

Yes! We are as determined as ever to make Mathcamp affordable for every qualified student. Because many families' circumstances have changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are extending the financial aid application deadline to May 15. All families are eligible to apply for financial support, whether or not they applied earlier this year. We will be in touch with each admitted student (new and alum) to follow up about this.

I am on the waitlist. What does this mean?

We will invite students off the waitlist one by one, as space becomes available. The waitlist is unordered, and we cannot tell you how high you are on the list: choosing the next student admitted depends on a lot of factors, including the overall composition of the camp. We will let everybody know no later than June 15th (probably much earlier). Thank you for your patience!

If you are admitted off the waitlist but do not want to attend Virtual Mathcamp, you will have the option of transferring your offer of admission to Mathcamp 2021, just like applicants admitted during the first round. (Everybody on the waitlist is somebody we really want to have at camp!)

What is the registration deadline? What happens if I need to withdraw after registering?

We understand that it is difficult to make summer plans in times of such uncertainty. We are pushing the registration and withdrawal deadlines as late as we can, to give families as much flexibility as possible.

The registration deadline for Mathcamp 2020 will be May 31, 2020; a deposit of one third of the camp fee ($500 for those paying full tuition) will be due at that time.

If a student decides to withdraw from the camp for any reason before June 21, half the camp fee deposit will be returned. After June 21, refunds are available only for absence due to illness or similarly grave situations. In such cases, the student will be reimbursed for the time they missed, less an administrative fee of $100 USD.

What if I register for Virtual Mathcamp, but then social distancing guidelines become significantly relaxed and I am able to attend a non-virtual program elsewhere?

This counts as withdrawal "for any reason." See the withdrawal policy above.

What if I register for Virtual Mathcamp and it turns out that the online thing just doesn't do it for me?

This also counts as withdrawal "for any reason." See the withdrawal policy above.

What if I or someone in my family gets sick in the middle of camp? What if something else really tough happens in my home life?

We will always provide refunds (prorated if camp is already in progress) for medical reasons. If there's something else difficult that has happened for you and your family, and you are no longer able to participate, we will handle these situations on a case-by-case basis.

Can I attend Virtual Mathcamp for only part of the summer?

Just as we do for in-person Mathcamp, we are designing a full five-week experience. We do allow students to make arrangements to miss a few days, and can arrange absences of up to a week if need be. However, students should plan to participate for no fewer than four of the five weeks.

What equipment will I need for Virtual Mathcamp?

See technology for the full list of required equipment. For families receiving financial aid, we can work with you in advance of camp to help you purchase the required hardware.

What if my internet is terrible?

It sure is frustrating not to be able to have consistent audio and video connections on a video call! We recommend that everybody have a minumim of 5 Mbps download/upload speeds, and an unlimited data plan for your home internet provider. (You can check your speed here.) For families receiving financial aid, we can work with you in advance of camp to provide improved internet access during the program.

Deferrals and Future Summers

I got accepted to Mathcamp 2020, but don't want to do a virtual program. Can I transfer my admission to Mathcamp 2021?

Yes! We understand that Virtual Mathcamp is not exactly what you applied for, so we have built some intentional flexibility into our admission policy for this year. Your admission for 2020 can be automatically deferred to 2021 as long as you are still eligible to attend next summer. (Apologies to graduating seniors – we're really sorry!) Of course, if you do decide to attend Virtual Mathcamp, you can still come back for Mathcamp 2021: our standard policy is that alumni are always welcome to return. In other words, regardless of what you choose to do this summer, you will be able to come to Mathcamp 2021 without having to reapply.

How does participating in Virtual Mathcamp affect my future summers at camp?

We do not plan to count VMC towards the 'guaranteed summers' count in the alum return policy.

  • If VMC 2020 is your first summer, then you will still have 2021 and 2022 guaranteed (as long as you are eligible to return).
  • If MC 2019 was your first summer, then you will be guaranteed for both VMC 2020 and MC 2021.
  • If you are an alum who has already taken a year off, then you are of course guaranteed for this and all future summers.
  • If you are an alum who has not yet taken a summer off, then VMC does not count in either direction: in particular, skipping it does not put you in the guaranteed group. If possible, we hope not to implement an alum cap in 2021 at all, even if it would mean making camp slightly larger than usual: we want all eligible alums to be able to return to camp next year (since nobody got to use this as their skip year). We will need to check our arithmetic after 2020 before we commit to this plan, but that's our hope.
Essentially, we want to discourage folks from turning down a VMC invitation in order to game the system: you should join us for VMC this summer if you are excited about participating! And you should take the summer off if you would rather do something else.

What will Virtual Mathcamp be like?

Note: almost everything in this section is in a state of flux and subject to change!

What will a day at Virtual Mathcamp be like?

That's a great question – and if you choose to attend, you will be a big part of the answer!

In designing Virtual Mathcamp, we are not going to try to replicate the residential experience: this is impossible and counterproductive. Rather, being the mathematicians that we are, we are starting from first principles—what makes Mathcamp Mathcamp—and thinking about how we can adapt what matters most to an online format.

While the study and pursuit of mathematics are at the heart of the Mathcamp experience, Mathcamp has never been just a collection of math courses. It is a community built around our common interest in mathematics, with all that follows from it: respect for intellectual autonomy and creativity, the willingness to question assumptions, the courage to tackle challenging problems starting with small steps, and the lack of a fundamental distinction between hard work and play, between the serious and the whimsical. In designing Virtual Mathcamp, we will think as broadly as possible about how to build such a community online. We will try to retain as many cherished Mathcamp traditions as we can, and at the same time will be open to trying completely new things (which is, in itself, a cherished Mathcamp tradition).

Mathcamp's motto is a quote from János Bolyai, the nineteenth century co-discoverer of hyperbolic geometry: "Out of nothing, I have created a strange new universe." Each summer, campers and staff together create the world of Mathcamp anew, but this year the metaphor is especially apt: we really get to make something entirely unprecedented, from scratch. This is a daunting but exciting task, and we look forward to seeing how it will unfold in the coming months. One thing we can be sure of: the students of Virtual Mathcamp will play a central role in the creation of this strange new universe. We can't wait to hear all of your ideas – wacky, wise, brilliant, creative, and hyperbolic!

What hours of the day will Virtual Mathcamp activities be held?

Designing a schedule for a program spanning multiple time zones is certainly a challenge! Official programming will start at 9am Pacific / noon Eastern / 4pm GMT, with academic activities primarily concentrated in the mornings/afternoons and non-academic pursuits in the evenings and on weekends. There will be scheduled breaks for meal times appropriate to the various time zones, and we will build in time on the weekends for campers to spend time with their families and away from the computer. See the schedule for more details.

Many of the activities at camp are spontaneous and camper-organized, so to some extent the schedule will evolve organically. Because of this, it is likely that campers living on the East Coast will find themselves on a late schedule. (At least this seems far more likely than West Coast campers opting to switch to an early schedule!) We ask in advance for parents' patience and understanding: let the kids enjoy each others' company, even if it means they're staying up later than usual. It's going to be a highly unusual summer anyway, and the social aspect of Mathcamp is vital both for the students' happiness and for their learning.

What if I'm in Europe, Africa, or Asia?

We love having international students at Mathcamp, but we recognize that participating in Virtual Mathcamp will be tough for them! The staff will largely be organizing events for the time zones of Canada and the continental US (though we do have a couple of staff members in Europe who may end up organizing a small number of activities in that time zone). We are offering admission to some international students (and inviting our international alums to return), and it is up to you to decide whether or not Mathcamp's schedule will work for your circumstances. We are not so sure we recommend it, but if you're a complete night owl anyway, and your parents don't mind, then let's discuss!

Mathcamp is supposed to be an immersive experience, but I don't want to spend 12 hours a day in front of a screen. Is Virtual Mathcamp for me?

We are very mindful of this issue! For all of us, one of the greatest challenges this summer will be balancing community time, which does require being together on screens, with offline time, including time with the people we live with.

As always, the cornerstone of the Mathcamp program is the freedom to design your own schedule: you choose which (and how many) classes to attend, how much mathematics to do each day (whether with others or on your own), and how much social time to spend with the other campers. Different individuals will make different choices, but we will do our best to design Virtual Mathcamp in such a way that you can have a great experience and feel part of the camp community without spending all day in front of a computer.

All of that said: there will be a lot more screen time than we'd like in a virtual version of Mathcamp. This is unavoidable, and only you can decide whether it is consistent with how you want to spend your summer.

Will learning at Virtual Mathcamp be synchronous or asynchronous?

There will certainly be some asynchronous activities, but most classes will be synchronous, as will TAU. Students should plan to be available during the scheduled academic times to participate.

What sorts of non-mathematical activities will be offered at Virtual Mathcamp?

Mathcamp activities run the gamut. We'll be adapting many of our old favorites for this new format (including camp-wide events, like Puzzle Hunt), and introducing all sorts of new ideas as well. As always, both students and staff can suggest activities, and we can't wait to see what events campers propose!

Will Virtual Mathcamp meet on weekends? If so, what will the weekend activities be?

Yes! There will be social activities on weekends, as well as informal mathematical activities. (For example, students might choose to meet with their project groups.) We will also be mindful that students (and staff!) will need time to spend with their families, so we are planning to have some official "time off" on weekends as well.

Other Questions

My question wasn't answered.

We know there will be many more questions! Feel free to post your questions in the Mathcamp AoPS Forum and we will answer them there. You may also want to look through the other questions that have already been asked and answered!

(If you do not have an Art of Problem Solving account, you will need to create one in order to post a question; it is free and worth your while, regardless of whether you come to Mathcamp this summer.)