Community maths

1st August 2018


Feeling part of a community of mathematicians is key to the success of Wadham’s PROMYS Europe Maths Summer School, taking place over the summer.

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    PROMYS Director, Glenn Stevens

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    Many of the counsellors are returning students

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    Counsellors roles include marking problem sheets and discussing areas of difficulty

Ellinor, 17, from Sweden, found PROMYS Europe via Google and was delighted to discover that the focus was on Number Theory. 

Her extraordinary mathematical ability has meant that despite the fact she is still at school, she shadows a student at the University of Stockholm and follows a maths programme there. “I think Oxford is so cool – so many famous mathematicians are here and everyone is a good teacher. And it’s really nice to be spending time with a community of mathematicians,” she said.

Most of the teaching takes place at the Mathematical Institute with private study and social time at Wadham College where the group stay. “The College is very old and beautiful with a ‘Harry Potter’ feeling in the Hall. The staff are kind and generous,” comments Ellinor who hopes to be a research mathematician after University and would like to apply to Oxford or Cambridge to study.

Valentin, 18, from Switzerland attends a Maths oriented high school and heard about the programme from friends in the Swiss team at the International Mathematical Olympiad. “I really like the exploration projects that we do here. Twice a week in groups of four we work independently, guided by counsellors on specific projects – this week I’m focused on the calculus of finite differences,” he said.

Highlights so far? “I like Glenn’s style of teaching and the gardens at Wadham, especially the terrace garden outside where we can sit and work or chat. I like the mixture of modern and historic buildings too,” he says.

Oxford is so cool – so many famous mathematicians are here ... and it’s really nice to be spending time with a community of mathematicians

Ellinor from Sweden

Meeting the other participants in the programme has also been a big plus for Valentin, with free time when they can socialise as well as take part in the organised excursions (punting was a favourite).

Six participants have returned to the programme this year along with 21 first years and eight counsellors, seven of whom have been involved in the programme on previous years. Each student has a named counsellor to support them. The counsellors mark daily problem sheets and discuss results and queries with their students. They also run short teaching sessions on their own areas of interest – Markov Chains was the session that day.   

“We had over 200 very strong applications to this year’s programme so these students have done very well to be selected,” comments PROMYS Europe Board Member and Whitehead Lecturer in the Mathematical Institute, Dr Vicky Neale. “The application process is designed to be mathematically rewarding in itself and we really appreciate the effort that students put in to it,” she added.

Vicky, along with Glenn Stevens (Boston University) and Henry Cohn (Microsoft and MIT), lead the programme, lecturing on number theory and group theory. Special events included in this year’s six week programme include trips to Bletchley Park and the National Museum of Computing and guest lectures by Sir Andrew Wiles, Professor Konni Rietsch, Professor Andrew Granville and Dr Julia Wolf.

Thanks to financial support from the Clay Mathematics Institute, Wadham College and other Oxford donors, student selection is on a needs-blind basis, with full funding available for travel and participation for those who need it. The Oxford programme is a spin-off from a programme run annually at Boston University and led by Director Glenn Stevens.

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    PROMYS Maths Summer School participants 2018

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