Mathcamp: How It Works

How It Works

Our goal is to put an enormous amount of fascinating mathematics within your reach so you can do as much as you want — in the way that is most enjoyable and productive for you.

The Mathcamp "week" is slightly shifted: classes meet Tuesday through Saturday, and the "weekend" is Sunday and Monday. During the week, our mathematical time is roughly 9am to 5pm, and a typical day looks like:

9am First class block
10am Second class block
11am Third class block
Noon Lunch
1pm Fourth class block
2pm TAU
4pm Colloquium

...but as you'll quickly discover, there really is no such thing as a typical day at Mathcamp. We offer an enormous variety of options, and you craft the curriculum that best suits you.

Classes, Projects, and Other Academic Activities

Photo of tiling the plane in a Mathcamp class

Math is everywhere at Mathcamp, and comes in lots of formats. You can take classes that are interactive lectures, or inquiry-based (where you discover the theorems yourself), or workshops (e.g. on reading and writing mathematical proofs). You can attend the daily colloquium talk. You can do a project, where you learn about a topic in depth (and then perhaps make a poster, or write a paper, or teach a class). You can participate in the problem-solving competitions, and show up for informal mathematical activities on evenings and weekends in the academics lounge. You work with your Academic Advisor to design a summer that suits your background and interests.

Chilis and Prerequisites

To help guide your choices, each class has a spiciness rating, from one chili to four chilis. In a one-chili class, the rule of thumb is that every student has the right to follow. If you get lost, ask lots of questions until your teacher slows down! On the other end of the spectrum: in a four-chili class, every student has the right to be challenged. Two and three chili classes are, naturally, somewhere in between. Spicier classes may move quickly, and the instructor may not be able slow down even if some students are not following. (That doesn't mean you can't ask questions, of course! But the instructor might say "Come find me after class and we can talk more about that.") Mathcamp (and real math) is very, very different from high school: you can expect that you will get lost sometimes. Getting lost is not a sign that something is wrong! Mathematicians get confused all the time, and then we work hard to understand the material. On the other hand, if you're lost in all of your classes, then you might want to adjust your schedule.

Spicy classes are neither better nor worse than mild classes; they're just spicier. Students who have a lot of background and are comfortable with abstraction may find themselves equally happy in spicy classes and mild classes, and we encourage everybody to try a variety of chili peppers on their menu.

Some classes are listed as prerequisites for other classes. That means that in order to follow the second class, you either need to take the first one at Mathcamp or have seen that material before in other contexts. We'll give you a global chart of which classes have prerequisites to help you plan your class selections for the summer.

Week 5

At the beginning of the summer, we publish a 4-week schedule, but camp is five weeks long. That's because the week 5 schedule is determined by a camp-wide vote! In the last week of camp, we teach the classes that campers didn't want to leave without.