South Side Summer: Project SYNCERE

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“Project SYNCERE (Supporting Youth’s Needs with Core Engineering Research Experiments) is the dream of three African American men who at an early age learned the power of education and technology.” Nationally SYNCERE has served more than 10,000 students since 2009, and this summer they will be continuing their work in Chicago!

For Middle Schoolers,  Project SYNCERE runs full day, week long camps. Each week their program changes, with topics including Robotics, Water Filtration, and Amusement Park Design. These camps run  every week from June 26th to August 4th–you can register for one week or register for them all. They keep fees low (the early bird rate is $250 a week, and you can apply for a discount based on family need). Generally registration and fees are due a couple of weeks before the particular camp you register for. The program takes place at Olive Harvey College, 10001 S. Woodlawn.

Project SYNCERE’s high school camp is free! This Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) camp run from July 3rd to August 11th at King College Prep, 4445 S. Drexel. Students will spend their time working on hands-on engineering projects. Register by Thursday, May 11th!

PROMYS: Boston, Summer, Number Theory

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The application deadline for the prestigious PROMYS program at Boston University is April 1st. PROMYS, or Program in Mathematics for Young Scientists, runs from July 2nd to August 12th. The program generally costs $4,200, but tuition is reduced to $2,718 for students from families with an annual income below $60,000, and you can apply for financial aid beyond this if needed. You have to be 15 by the day the program starts to be eligible.

PROMYS has a lot to offer. It’s a great way to learn Number Theory. For six weeks you have the experience of living in a dormitory at Boston University. It’s a large program (about 80 students), and immersive. There are more than 20 counselors there to support students, in addition to faculty, research mentors and other visiting mathematicians. If you want to experience what it’s like to be a mathematician yourself, the PROMYS experience offers an unparalleled opportunity!



7th Graders: Jack Kent Cooke Scholarships!

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If you are currently in 7th grade, are academically ambitious, and could use financial support in attending summer enrichment programs, the Jack Kent Cooke Young Scholars Program may be perfect for you. If accepted, the program provides substantial financial support for summer and academic year enrichment programs, internship and study abroad opportunities, and academic counseling. This support starts in 8th grade and continues until high school graduation.

The application is extensive and requires essays, report cards, and test scores, two teacher and one mentor recommendation. The deadline for applying is April 5th.

Hampshire Summer Studies: 17, Yellow Pigs, and Community

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The Hampshire College Summer Studies in Mathematics program or HCSSiM is….unusual. If you check out their website, you’ll see a quirkiness indicating a community that makes math fun. They are obsessed with the number 17, teach “Unusual Courses”, and list a daily schedule that includes “8:34–Bear Wrestling; 1:34–Write a paper on the influence of novel broccoli cultivation methods on Brezhnev’s foreign policy; 17:00–Stare at a wall until 6:00.” And, most obviously, they are obsessed with yellow pigs. Really, you should check out the website.

It’s evident that Hampshire has a fundamental belief, which I share, that good math + strong community = a transformational experience.

HCSSiM is an intensive six week program for high school students–this year from July 2nd to August 12th. The program doesn’t have a firm application deadline, as they admit students on a rolling basis (the website suggests that the earlier you apply the better, and that June is probably too late). HCSSiM offers financial aid and asserts that financial need has no bearing on admissions.

Screening: Navajo Math Circles March 25th!

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The documentary Navajo Math Circles was released last year but has yet to be shown in Chicago. On March 25th we’ll change that! Please join us in a screening of this film at 1:00PM on Saturday, March 25th. We will be holding the screening at the CPS Garfield Park offices at 2651 W. Washington in Chicago. You can RSVP here.

The Association for Women in Mathematics says, “Navajo Math Circles beautifully and sensitively portrays the ‘Math Circles’ approach to teaching mathematics to Navajo students in the American Southwest.” Join us!

Two Plugs: BEAM in the NYT; Cheng in the WSJ

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Yesterday the New York Times published “Beyond ‘Hidden Figures’: Nurturing New Black and Latino Math Whizzes” (wish they had written Latin@). The piece focuses on our colleagues in BEAM, or Bridge to Enter Advanced Mathematics. BEAM invites kids from lower resource schools in New York City to a math summer camp after 6th and 7th grade. They then support these students through high school, helping them to attend other math enrichment experiences in the hopes of increasing the number of students of color studying math in college and beyond. Congratulations to Dan Zaharopol and all of our friends at BEAM! (I know some MC^2 teachers are interested in teaching in BEAM this summer too!)

Last week “The Logic of Our Fear of Flying: Why are we so afraid of getting in an airplane when, statistically flying is so safe? A mathematical explanation” appeared in the Wall Street Journal*. The piece was written by Eugenia Cheng, mathematician in residence at the Art Institute and our 2016 QED speaker. Dr. Cheng’s new book Beyond Infinity: An Expedition to the Outer Limits of Mathematics comes out next month!

* If you are not a subscriber to the WSJ, accessing the article through Facebook worked for me. 🙂

Summer YSP: March 31st app deadline!

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Our close colleagues at the UChicago Young Scholars Program are ready for your application to their summer program. Apply here!University_of_Chicago_logo

Key facts:

  • Open to rising 7th to 12th graders (so if you just finished 6th grade, you can come!)
  • There are scholarships for some students, along with a sliding scale for others.
  • The camp runs from July 5th to July 28th, 9:30-2:30 on UChicago’s campus (Fridays the day ends at noon)
  • The focus this summer is geometry.
  • All the cool kids will be there.

UChicago YSP must be the longest running math summer program and Chicago. Highly recommended!

Summer Mathcamp Canada/USA Edition

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For kids, summer is a time of exploration–especially given the ever growing academic demands we make on children during the school year. This is the time of year my wife and I start our annual search for the right summer experience.

Families in Math Circles are in the same boat as my family right now, and with that in mind I’m hoping to make regular posts about summer opportunities. Today I want to highlight the Canada/USA Math Camp.MathCamp Logo

As the leader of an organization that promotes free math enrichment for school age kids, I want to start
by saying that this immersive math experience is free for children of families who have an annual income under $65,000–and that includes travel to Tacoma, Washington where the camp takes place. Check out the camp’s financial aid webpage for more information–in particular, the page gives links to other ways to earn scholarships for summer math programs!

The Canada/USA Math Camp is open to 13-18 year olds, and runs from July 2nd to August 6th. The application deadline is March 10th, and requires an essay, a qualification quiz, and two recommendation letters.

On Wednesday, February 15th at 6:30PM central time the Canada/USA Math Camp is hosting a live information session through the Art of Problem Solving website. Check it out!


On Novel Mathematics

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As our Haynes students left math circles on Saturday, I overheard a conversation that went something like this:

Mom: How was math circles?

5th grader: I’m not sure we did math today….

Part of our stated mission in math circles is to do novel mathematics. As I eavesdropped I realized that this math may be so novel and different from what our students do in school that it’s not even clear that it’s math to begin with.

This reminded me that on our surveys parents often ask us to say what we ARE doing in math circles.

  • In Haynes (those 5th and 6th graders), we launched the quarter with questions about rulers. We all know the standard 12 inch ruler. But are all those marks on the ruler necessary? If we had marks dividing the ruler into parts of length 1, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2 and 1 inch, could we still measure any multiple of one inch? What’s the fewest marks we could get away with?
  • In Kovalevsky (high school level), we also talked about measurement, but for this group, we changed how we measure. Our first winter session was about taxicab geometry, where distances are measured by paths taken at right angles, like cabs driving on perpendicular streets. It turns out that if we change the way we measure distance, the geometry of our world changes quite a bit. One nice example is that π would no longer be about 3.14159265 in ‘taxicab space’.

So what do we mean by novel mathematics? For starters, math can be a lot more playful than the way it is sometimes presented in school. What if we changed our ruler? More radically, what if we just changed how we measured distance altogether?Screen Shot 2017-01-25 at 2.49.49 PM

Note that this isn’t just fanciful–taxicab geometry is more appropriate for certain problems in urban settings. Google maps can’t guide you through buildings; the shortest path can’t be found using Pythagoras theorem. Moreover, this idea of different geometries and living in a different “space” is vital mathematics in the age of ‘big data’. Getting the shortest path to the search results you really seek is a fundamental problem for the current day.

There are a lot of good reasons for doing novel mathematics–not the least of which is that we hope it will be interesting and engaging. Now we just need to teach our younger students that all this really is math. 🙂


Regeneron STS: Congrats Beatrice Farb!

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STS_014_17_B_860x460 updated scholar annc mainThe Regeneron Science Talent Search (STS) has announced its 2017 Scholars. Payton’s Beatrice Farb was named one of the awardees, for her project “From the Jerk to the Role Model: Large-scale Analysis of a Personality Inventory.”

Beatrice is a long time participant in the Math Circles of Chicago, and has received “Highly Distinguished” honors at QED: Chicago’s Youth Symposium multiple times.

Regeneron STS (previously sponsored by Westinghouse) will announce 40 Finalists next week. Good luck, Beatrice!