Address delivered by the Executive Director at the closing ceremonies in MathPath 2003
July 26, 2003
Black Hills State University
Students, parents, staff, and faculty:
In the year 1993, this question occurred to me: What is the mathematics training appropriate for a future mathematician who is still in school?
Pondering over it, I started the Canada/USA Mathcamp for mathematically talented high school students. That camp, running this year in Seattle, is now in its eleventh year; for middle school students I did similarly in the year 2001 - MathPath just finished its second summer.
The program principle of MathPath, described in its Operations Manual, is that it shall, by suitable lectures and activities, first ensure a strong mathematics foundation and then a broad view of mathematics in a context of higher expectation. Additionally, students shall be provided the opportunity to experience the doing of mathematics through sessions on problem solving techniques.
In implementing the principle, the program offers courses that include Writing in Mathematics, History of Mathematics, Non-Euclidean Geometry, Principles and Methods of Proof, and other topics that are not offered in middle school, high school, or university curricula. The Operations Manual stipulates that the instructor shall communicate mathematics effectively to the students by conducting interactive sessions. Lectures shall go to a reasonable depth that requires no initial knowledge on the part of the student, with at least one new concept introduced in each lecture.
To ensure that the program principle is carried out, MathPath recruits top instructional talent from around the continent. This is one aspect where the program differs from one that can be offered by a school district or university, where they often choose instructors in-house. Undergraduates chosen carefully from top universities serve as counselors at MathPath.
I believe that MathPath2003 has succeeded in implementing the program principle. I am thankful to the faculty and staff. A good number of the future mathematicians of today have been taken early on the mathematical path so that the concepts they should have met at this stage of their lives have been imparted to them; they have been shown the proper way of writing mathematics, and the various proof methods were made familiar. Heuristics were explained and practice on over an hundred problems of the type they would encounter in future high school mathematics competitions took place for each student.
You now stand at a higher level in mathematics, and you are better prepared for future competitions and in choosing the mathematics curriculum not only in high school but also in university. Above all, you have been in a safe and fun month-long environment with peers where respect and regard for others were the norm.
Today, going away from the camp will make you sad. Tears will well up in many eyes. I too am sad to see each one of you go. Of'course, many of you who were attending a class grade below eight this past year in school will return to camp, but all of you can reduce the pain of separation by keeping in touch with all of us by posting messages as and when you like on the Alumni Forum on the MathPath website. When your residential addresses change, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and provide the new address so that we never lose you no matter where you are in the world. Further, I ask you to call me at the number below, or email me, if MathPath or I can be of help to you. We have composed a file on each of you so that when you need a recommendation for university admission or other matters, we are just a phone call or email away. Yes, the camp session in June/July is only the beginning. The network you fell into will try to support you in all the capacities it can as long as you need it, for we realize that you and the others, so talented in diverse fields, form of the core of the strength of this nation.
Just as we will be supportive of you, I ask you to be supportive to your fellow camp mates and return in later years to work at camp as counselors and then as faculty and visiting speakers.
I love you, for it is for you that I have built this enterprise. I remain in admiration of you and your wonderful parents who made possible your attendance at camp. Now I humbly bid you to go forth from this camp and rise in life by sustained and concentrated work in your area of activity. May you become a beacon of character and achievement shining for future generations, especially of MathPath of which you are the illustrious and proud alumni in its glorious second year.
George Rubin Thomas, Ph.D.
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