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Updates about Mathcamp 2020

Image of the 2020 Year End Report cover

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we pivoted quickly this spring from our traditional residential program to running an online version of Mathcamp for five weeks this summer. It went amazingly well, and we're excited to share with you some reflections from our first adventures in Virtual Mathcamp 2020!

Five weeks at our new Virtual Mathcampus: Read our 2020 Year-End Report [PDF].

  • We built a brand-new Virtual Campus. To create the feeling of immersion in the atmosphere of Mathcamp, we built our own platform to host the program, and commissioned an architect and visual artist to design a story-book campus for us. Every space on the campus is interactive, and includes embedded video chat that hosted our classes, events, and informal hanging out.
  • Images of the 2020 Virtual Campus
  • We brought a full cohort of 120 students to Virtual Mathcamp: there were 54 girls, 5 non-binary students, and 61 boys. They came from 29 U.S. states, 3 Canadian provinces, and 13 other countries (Brazil, Burkina Faso, China, Georgia, Germany, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Singapore, Switzerland, Turkey, and the U.K.). There were 62 first-year students and 58 returning alumni. We adapted the daily schedule to accommodate students and staff in the Eastern hemisphere, and they generously shifted their schedules to make the most of their time at camp.
  • Images of the 2020 Students and Staff
  • We did so much math! We ran 108 classes taught by 33 different instructors. The topics ranged from "A Rubik's cube-based approach to group theory" to "Integration on manifolds" to "The puzzle of the superstitious basketball player". We also included a series of classes honoring the late John H Conway, who came to Mathcamp as a visiting speaker for many, many years. Read the schedules and descriptions of classes here.
  • We ran so many activities! The community came up with so many ways to connect: on our virtual campus; by video chat; on slack; talking on the phone while taking walks ("Mathcamp Strolling Partnerships"); and even by mailing one another postcards. We made pancakes together; went bowling with blue tape and markers; held an anti-racism book group; recorded songs together (and did some so-bad-it's-good Zoom karaoke); played and ranked 90 different variations of solitaire. The JCs created amazing virtual field trips, and as always, we had a day-long Puzzle Hunt.

Of course, as with any new endeavor, we didn't know whether it would work. But it absolutely did! At the end of the program, here's how one of our students described the experience:

 VMC was by far the brightest five weeks I've had during the pandemic. The teaching was top-notch, the schedule flexible and accommodating, and the culture vibrant and accepting. Looking back, I could never have imagined just how emphatically we bridged the physical distance between us to build a weird and wonderful world! 
  • We redoubled our efforts to support an economically diverse population. We dramatically lowered tuition for the online program (to $1500, down from $4500 for the residential program); we awarded generous need-based financial aid (26 full scholarships and 8 partial awards); and we offered technology grants to any students who needed laptops, tablets, or even internet access to participate in camp this summer (18 grants in total).

    Mathcamp continues to be completely free for families with household incomes of $65,000 and below, and tuition is on a sliding scale for middle-income families. Our Scholarship Fund comes from the AMS Epsilon Fund, the National Science Foundation, and the alumni, family and friends of Mathcamp from 1995 to present.

We were truly moved by how much our students appreciated this support. In the words of one 2020 camper:

 I really appreciate your care and effort towards universal access. You are doing this in a way most people aren't willing to. This sort of inclusion – of care – is what working for true diversity means. I truly hope and plan to be able to give back this meaningful impact some day, as my personal life goal. Thank you. 

And sharing that spirit, we join our students in saying: thank you to our supporters for helping us to create a wonderful Virtual Mathcamp 2020!