Saturday, January 16, 2016

PROMYS: a summer program for high school students


From their website:
PROMYS is a challenging program designed to encourage ambitious high school students to explore the creative world of mathematics. Each summer, approximately 80 high school students from around the country gather on the campus of Boston University for six weeks of rigorous mathematical activity. Through their intensive efforts to solve an assortment of unusually challenging problems in Number Theory, participants will practice the art of mathematical discovery. The problem sets encourage students to design their own numerical experiments and to employ their own powers of analysis to discover mathematical patterns, formulate and test conjectures, and justify their ideas by devising their own mathematical proofs.
I absolutely love the PROMYS curriculum and this style of learning, but in terms of summer math camps, it's definitely on the serious side.  Students have to learn to manage their time, deciding how to spend their hours outside of class and how much time each day to devote to their problem set, which they are unlikely to be able to complete.  This feels a little bit too much like grad school to me... where there's no such thing as finishing your work, and so whenever you take some time away from it you feel a little guilty.  It also is one of the few programs to have a midterm and final exam.  However, in exchange for all this, you really do learn a huge amount, and if you love the mathematics you are discovering you'll have a great summer.

I was a counselor at PROMYS the summer after I graduated college, in 2013, and found that even as someone about to start a PhD in number theory, I learned a lot from the number theory course.  I just was left with the impression that as a high schooler, this program would have been a little too much for me.

The PROMYS program is based off of another math camp called ROSS, which takes place at Ohio State.  I haven't had any personal experience with ROSS, but I definitely know people who attended and loved it.  The two programs are similar enough that geography could reasonably be a deciding vote.

PROMYS also runs a concurrent program for teachers, which I think is a fantastic idea.  It's associated with Math for America Boston, Focus on Mathematics, and the Master's Degree in Mathematics for Teaching at Boston University.  

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