Advanced Summer Program for students age 11-14
who show high promise and love mathematics


Questions & Answers

    

Electronics at MathPath

1. Are computers and calculators allowed at MathPath? Both our son and our daughter use their laptop computers all the time, and in school they use an advanced graphing and symbolic calculator.

A. We use your question as a opportunity to state our full electronics policy, which was revised in 2013.

MathPath students are strongly discouraged from bringing high-tech devices to camp, including computers, tablets, readers and high-powered calculators. These devices are not ever required or necessary for the work that students do at MathPath. However, since 2013 it is no longer forbidden to bring such devices without special permission. What continues to be forbidden is inappropriate use. Also, parents must sign a Personal Electronics Agreement Form, consenting to our use policy, listing any electronics they are allowing their child to bring to camp, and absolving MathPath (and the host institution) of any responsibility for damage, loss, or theft of any of these devices.

We do not discourage bringing cell phones, including smartphones; indeed we require it, because they have become necessary for communication, certainly during transit to and from camp, but also with you parents at camp, as colleges no longer provide land lines in dormitory rooms. But phones too must be used appropriately. Our current policy is that, with rare exceptions, cell phones can only be used for about a half hour every day for phoning you, and they they are kept by the counselors at all other times. And once again, you may not hold MathPath or the host institution responsible for their damage, loss or theft.

All electronic devices (excluding calculators – see later) are prohibited from breakouts and plenaries. The exception is: permission may be granted for a student to bring a computer or special device to classes if the parents state (on the Personal Electronics Agreement Form) that the student needs it for some special purpose such as disability. We have found that if students bring these devices to classes and lectures they provide undue and unnecessary distractions from the mathematics at hand.

Electronic games of any sort (computer games, games on smartphones, tablets, calculators, game machines), movie/tv-streaming (such as from Hulu, Netflix, or other similar sites), and non-academic internet-browsing are not allowed at MathPath. We believe that students do not come to MathPath to do these activities. Rather, they come to MathPath to do mathematics and engage with peers who have similar interests. We believe that the above listed activities are not beneficial to the environment at MathPath. Students have ample math activities at their disposal throughout camp, and non-math time is spent playing board games, field games, athletics, music, etc. There is never such a lack of good things to do that students need to engage in any forbidden electronic activity.

If the MathPath staff has reason to suspect that a camper has been misusing their electronic device in any way, the MathPath staff will impound that device, and any further use for the duration of the camp will be at the discretion of the staff.

Why are most electronic devices unnecessary at MathPath? Email and internet access are available to students at least once a day in public computer labs on campus (usually in our dorm) , so families do not need to send computers for these purposes. We give one or two courses about mathematical explorations one can do with mathematics software, but we will have a dedicated computer lab for such courses; personal computers are not necessary. Graphing calculators are not necessary because the one or two courses that use calculators (typically Glen van Brummelen's courses) use at most trig functions. We thus recommend that students bring a cheap scientific calculator to camp if they have one; however, calculators are not required.

The leadership of MathPath is not anti-computer. First, we use our own laptops in running the camp. In addition, we recognize that computing can be directly useful in doing mathematics, and conversely mathematics is precisely the tool needed to study the theory of computing. Some of us use computing in doing our own mathematical work. But MathPath is meant as a time of intense engagement in mathematics. The issue for young students is: will the presence of their own computer (and other electronic devices) be more of a help or a hindrance? Our experience is that it will more likely be a hindrance.

2. My daughter asks: Can I bring my two favorite things, my cell phone and my iPod?

A. This is mostly now answered by the general policy given in answer to the previous question, but here is a specific answer.

Cell phones: Yes, cell phones are allowed. Indeed, now that colleges have eliminated landline service to dorm rooms, cell phones are the best way for families to be in touch with MathPath students. But remember, cell phones are easily lost, especially if you are not used to carrying one and keeping it safe. Be sure to have your name and another contact number readily accessible both on the outside of the phone (indelible ink? etching?) and when the machine is turned on (on the splash screen).

Other electronics. The number of small electronic devices is proliferating, and their power is growing: MP3-player, iShuffle, iPod, iPod-touch, iPhone, iPad,.... Many students own one or more.

The same general rule applies to all these devices:

  1. They can only be brought if the parent specifically permits them on the Personal Electronics Form.
  2. They are easily lost and we are not responsible for the cost if you lose them.
  3. Email and webbrowsing is available in the computer lab in our dorm, so you should not bring a handheld device just for this purpose.
  4. We don't want these devices to get in the way of engagement with mathematics or engagement with other campers.
Therefore, the following uses of such devices are inappropriate:
  • Playing computer games at any time.
  • Listening to your device through earphones in the dining hall or any other place where this will keep people from talking to you. (Listening to music as you drift off to sleep in your room is fine.)
  • texting in any public place.
  • Using any of these devices at all in a plenary or breakout – unless you are using it as a calculator with the consent of the lecturer or breakout instructor.
Item 4 above is key. If we find that your device is getting in the way of engagement, we will ask you to stop using it that way (even if the use is not listed above), and if the situation does not improve, we will take your device away. We hope that campers will use these devices responsibly, because we are not eager to forbid them or to enforce rigid rules about them.

If you don't use any of these devices regularly, and are not already used to keeping track of them in new places, then leave them at home so you don't lose them. If you must bring them, as with cell phones make sure contact information is built in unerasably.

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