Summer math camp - the success continues

This year's participants of the Summer math camp: Mikolaj Cuszynski-Kruk, Johannes Granér, Einar Waara and Sara Freyland (photo: Alma Kirlic)

In August, the department organized the fifth round of the Summer Math Camp. The camp is aimed at students who want to try mathematical research. In this year's edition, under the theme finite fields and their applications, four students participated: Mikolaj Cuszynski-Kruk, Sara Freyland, Johannes Granér and Einar Waara. We've asked the students about their thoughts on the camp.

What attracted your interest in the Summer Math Camp?

Johannes: I heard of it from some friends and when I visited the website and read about it, it seemed fun. I previously participated in a project aimed at getting young people to discuss math, which was a lot of fun, so I thought the Summer Math Camp would be the more advanced version of it.

Mikolaj: What attracted my interest was, above all, the possibility to see and feel how mathematical research is conducted.

Einar: I thought that this year's theme seemed interesting. I'd always thought that there was something beautiful about discrete mathematics and wanted to learn more.

Sara: I had friends who participated last year and what they told me about it sounded very interesting. It felt like a good way to get a little insight into how research differs from what our courses look like.

How was the summer camp?

Mikolaj: It was fun and interesting.

Einar: The summer camp was fun and intense, I was not used to spending so many hours a day with mathematics, but it was very instructive and I had excellent company.

Sara: It was intense and instructive. It was also a very good way to work in a group, which rarely happens in other math courses.

Johannes: It was incredibly fun and educational! I had no previous experience of really immersing myself in a specific area as we did during the Summer Math Camp, so at first it felt a bit odd but after a little while it was just fun!

How does the Summer Math Camp differ from your math courses?

Sara: The biggest difference was not knowing if there was an answer. In the courses, the tasks are usually designed to be solved and for students to learn something specific from them. Here, instead, it was our curiosity that was steering.

Einar: The idea of ​​the Summer Math Camp is to simulate a research situation, which means, among other things, that there is no syllabus. We therefore had a very great influence on what we studied and how we went about to answer our questions, the number of which became bigger and bigger during the course of the camp.

Johannes: It was much freer than usual. The goal was to come up with something interesting, rather than to know in advance exactly what the task was. In the usual courses there is also very little group work and mathematical discussion so it was nice for a change.

Mikolaj: Under mathematics courses you are faced with problems that usually have a clear answer and are relatively easy to solve based on the content of the course. In the summer camp, instead, we were faced with more open questions that we ourselves needed to define in a way that could be solved based on our background skills.

Has the summer camp changed your perception of mathematical research? If so, how?

Einar: I think I have gained a more calibrated understanding of the nuances of the process. It is not enough to understand mathematical concepts. I also requires wisdom in how to oranise the work in general and how to think about what needs to be ensured first, etc. In this, both Martin and Maksim very helpful and gave many good insights.

Sara: It has definitely given me a better understanding of the work process. Even though we only got a little insight into how it workes, it made a big difference comparing to what I knew before.

Mikolaj: Yes, collaboration is a greater part of research than I thought.

Johannes: I thought I had a good idea of ​​what research meant even before the camp, but what I didn't really understand was how many questions that are constantly occurring. I thought it was more like you have a problem to solve, and when you finished with that, you find another one, but, at least for us, new problems that would be interesting to investigate constantly occured. I didn't realise at all that it could be difficult to stick to a chosen problem and not to start solving another interesting problem.