Mathcamp: Problem Solving

Problem Solving

Problem solving and competition-style math plays an interesting role at Mathcamp: it can be a big piece of your mathematical experience, or play little to no role at all. (It's not the central focus of our curriculum, though, so if you're looking for a full schedule of contest math preparation, then this probably isn't the right fit for you.) As with all subjects, our goal is to make problem-solving resources and activities available to students and invite students to choose what interests them most.

We run two weekly competitions and teach one or two classes each day on problem solving (some at a beginner/intermediate level, others at the Olympiad level). Among both students and staff, you will find people who have won medals at the IMO and people who have never done a problem-solving competition in their lives. And of course, in the Mathcamp library, you'll find lots of books on problem solving (and people who want to talk about problems with you!).

Photo of Team Problem Solving

Team Problem Solving is an olympiad-style competition held weekly throughout camp on Wednesday evenings. Campers can opt to participate in advance of camp and can choose between two types of teams:

  • Hardcore teams are competing to win! Team members are encouraged not to quit mid way through camp (because they would be letting their team down). Team members cannot be shuffled and teams cannot merge.
  • Mellow teams are solving just for fun (although the problems are the same). Team members may choose to skip one or various weeks without feeling guilty. With staff permission, teams can merge if they have lost too many members.

The results of the five weeks are added, and prizes for the winning teams are awarded at the final assembly.

"Relays" are a fun, light-hearted Saturday afternoon activity at Mathcamp, and most of camp participates: it's a chance to run around outside in the sunshine and solve quick math problems. Campers organize themselves into teams of 5-7 people and again opt for "mellow" (we're just here to relax) or "hardcore" (we're in it to win it) and spend an hour solving problems as a team: logic problems, games, 'traditional' contest problems -- you name it. (The prize for winning may involve candy.)

We teach one or two Problem-Solving Classes, at beginner and Olympiad levels, each day. Recent topics have included ARML Power Rounds, Diophantine Equations, Inequalities, and Geometric Transformations. The topics change from year to year, so both new campers and returning alumni can dive into problem-solving techniques together.