“My PROMYS experience convinced me that I wanted to be a mathematician.”
Student 2006 Counselor 2012
"There are lots of places where people can go to learn things. What makes PROMYS so special is the opportunity that people have to discover things for themselves, and at the same time to be part of a community of people doing the same thing . . . The atmosphere at PROMYS is designed to encourage this by allowing students the academic and personal freedom they need to grow."
Student 1990 Counselor 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, and 1995. Returned multiple years as Research Mentor, Instructor, and Guest Lecturer.
"What I appreciated most as a student was the intensity of the program. I think that the main sources of this feeling were the difficulty and depth of the problems sets and the presence and motivation of the other students and counselors. Also, I found the material itself to be exciting . . .
"At PROMYS, I met people who could offer advice about possible mathematical paths for the end of high school and at college. Many of the people I met are still close friends, and I learn a lot from them as they continue to do interesting things with their lives."
Student 1991 and 1992 Counselor 1996 and 1997
“A defining three summers in my life. I wouldn't trade them for anything and would recommend the program to anyone.”
Student 1989 and 1990 Counselor 1991
"I spent four years as a counselor at PROMYS, a number theory program for high school students, and highly endorse it either as a place to go learn or to go work... I think I care more about being a good teacher and a good writer as a result of PROMYS... PROMYS made me think consciously about how to teach, and recognize that I was capable of doing it well if I worked at it.... PROMYS was extremely helpful in developing my approach to studying mathematics and teaching it. PROMYS helped me focus my understanding on examples, and, by making me review the fundamentals of number theory every year, helped me see how to understand a mathematical field as a cohesive whole rather than a series of results. In terms of teaching, PROMYS taught me patience, taught me to listen to a student's partial solution to pick out the useful ideas, and taught me the importance of knowing many approaches to any subject... I also have run across many former student at academic conferences, or walking around the halls of MIT, and am friendly with them. I also check arXiv.org regularly, and look for names of former students. I always read their preprints, and often send them suggestions, thoughts or corrections...The PROMYS network of grad students and professional mathematicians has been very helpful to me as a source of advice as I have moved through my career."
Counselor 1999, 2000. 2001 (Head Counselor), and 2002 (Head Counselor)
“For the first time in my scholastic life, I felt humbled by my peers. Outstanding, sobering experience.”
"I am incredibly grateful for support from Professor Glenn Stevens. His PROMYS program opened my eyes to pure mathematics as a high school student, and each summer, I continue to find more reasons to spend my life studying this beautiful subject."
Student 2004, 2005 Counselor 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 (Head Counselor), and 2010 (Head Counselor)
"PROMYS was fantastic! It introduced me to higher mathematics at a young age and taught me to think like a mathematician. I carried this with me in every job I've had since, as a Statistician, Astrophysicist, and Applied Mathematician."
Student 1990 Counselor 1991.
“I still tell people that PROMYS was the defining summer of my life. It launched my interest in mathematics to new levels, and it confirmed my suspicions about the incomparable beauty of the subject.”
Student 2005 Counselor 2009 and 2010
“PROMYS is the perfect experience for high-schoolers who would like a challenge and would also like to find out what it is like to do some "real mathematics." The combination of open-ended problem sets and of lectures that stay just a few days behind what the students are thinking about allows each student to engage the material at their own pace, and their own level of depth.”
“Truthfully, PROMYS was one of the highlights of my life. The intense focus needed to work hard and learn at PROMYS was a terrific tool that I added to my arsenal of abilities, which got used quite frequently during my undergraduate and graduate studies. Although the focus at PROMYS was on abstract mathematics, the underlying scientific and logical structures are well formulated and usable in all the sciences.”
Student 1993 and 1994 Counselor 1996
"While I didn't ultimately pursue a career in mathematics, the experience of the program was formative both in introducing me to higher math and in developing my analytic ability, a skill that translates well to many fields and careers. Specifically, attending the program put me ahead of the majority of my peers in college mathematically, and when I ultimately decided to pursue a research career in biological sciences, the quantitative skills I gained from the program facilitated the transition."
Student 2000 Counselor 2001 and 2002
“Not only did PROMYS serve as my first time rigorously proving theorems from axioms, but also it was a great time, above and beyond just the mandatory fun sessions.”
Student 2003 and 2004
"The time I spent in PROMYS last summer proved to be the most influential time of my life thus far. It introduced me to a world of mathematics that I never had seen before. Everyone helped to create a welcoming atmosphere, and at the end of the six weeks, I hated to leave. The material we studied was fascinating and intriguing; math had never seemed so interesting, confusing, or beautiful to me. The afternoon lectures were also quite engaging, especially those on cryptography and knot theory. In a mere six weeks, I learned as much and became acquainted with as many people as I have in years of studying at school. Attending PROMYS was a momentous experience in my life."
Student 1991 and 1992
"When you do math in high school, you kind of get an idea of it as already done for you, but when you come to PROMYS, you get the idea that it's not really all cut and dried and there's new stuff always going on that you have to figure out."
Student 1995 and 1996
"I think a really big and important difference is the teachers. The lecturers and the teachers here are really, really enthusiastic about math, and they instill that in their students. It's just a great feeling when everybody's thinking math, and you're all working on it. . . .
"The problem sets are very well designed. Certain problems come up, and it will sort of give you a hint of what's coming next, and you'll say, that's nice, and then you find other problems, and you'll find they're connected. The more problems you do and the more types that you do, you find that they're all connected in this really deep way, some way or another, and you can then prove much deeper things, and it gets so interesting; it's great. . . . They really give you the impression here that math is more similar to art than it is to a science."
Student 1996 and 1997 Counselor 2000 and 2002 Returned as Research Mentor and Guest Speaker
"You are working with some of the brightest minds in the nation. In high school, you don't have people of the caliber you have here. . . .
"People come here at different points in their high school careers. The first time I came here was after my freshman year of high school. I was good at mathematics, on the math team, but not one of the top members of it, not really knowing what I wanted to do or knowing anything about colleges. Basically, I didn't have much direction at the time. While I was here I realized that math is really what I enjoy. Also, being in Boston, close to MIT and Harvard, it's really useful to get to tour those campuses. I'm going to MIT next year, and PROMYS probably had a lot to do with that."
Student 1993 and 1994 Counselor 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, and 2000 Returned as Research Mentor
"PROMYS is a lot of discovery; it's not just reading from a book and saying 'This is what is and learn how to use it.' . . .
"You're just completely immersed in math. . . . One thing they could improve: they could make it [PROMYS] longer."
"I came to the United States at the start of my sophomore year in high school in North Carolina. I then attended PROMYS in the summer of my junior and senior years. The first summer at PROMYS opened my eyes to a world of education opportunities."
Student 1994 Counselor 1995, 1996, and 1997
"PROMYS was like losing my intellectual virginity. I was 15. It was amazing."
"Not only was it an awesome experience but it has given me opportunities that have played a significant role in shaping my life."
Student 1996 and 1997
"Promys helped forge an important link of my self definition, at just the right time in my life."
Michael (Adam) Jablecki
"PROMYS was an excellent program for gathering young intellectuals and introducing the rigor of number theory which can be applied to any mathematical or non-mathematical field requiring thoroughness and attention to detail."
“I still come back to Professor Stevens telling us all "to think deeply of simple things."
Student 1999 and 2000
“PROMYS was my first long term away from home camp and it was probably one of the funnest experience ever :) “
“PROMYS opened my eyes to a world of mathematics in which passion was not the direct consequence of ease.”
Student 2006; Counselor 2010, 2011 (Head Counselor), and 2012 (Head Counselor)
“PROMYS was a very enlightening experience for me. It was my first experience with the axiomatic paradigm of mathematics, but that was not the important part. The most important part was learning how to solve problems.”
"As an attorney, my career did not develop into the scientific one I expected while a student at PROMYS. Nevertheless, I am indebted to PROMYS for having provided me the confidence to explore unexpected avenues and to take on challenges beyond my usual comfort zone. PROMYS was a wonderful experience and very beneficial for my personal growth."
“Prof. Stevens was great. He presented challenging number theory material in an interesting and thought-provoking way. I still remember several of the proofs and concepts almost 20 years later!”
“Quite possibly the best two summers of my life.”
Counselor 1991 and 1992
“I spent 5 summers at PROMYS, 2 as a student, 1 as a junior counselor, and 2 as a counselor. The experience really helped shape me as a person. I loved being surrounded and challenged by smart people every day of the program! I've never exercised my brain so much! The program really fed my need to relentlessly pursue solutions to complicated problems (thus my interest in health care reform). I made so many great friends at the program and wish I kept in touch with more people. I'm thrilled that the program is still going strong!”
Julia Kraemer Lerche
Student 1992 and 1993 Counselor 1994, 1995, and 1997
“Having grown up in a small rural town in Missouri, PROMYS was my first exposure to a true academic community. My experiences at PROMYS sharpened my problem thinking skills and gave me the self-confidence to pursue an ambitious educational path (e.g. applying to colleges I would have never considered). I will always look back on my days at PROMYS fondly!”
Carrie Snyder Woods
Student 1993 and 1994 Counselor 1996
"I still have many fond memories of the summer, especially all of the other students I met. It was wonderful! "
Karon Von Antwerp
“I love PROMYS!!”
Student 1999 and 2000. Counselor 2001, 2002. 2003, 2004, and 2005. Head Counselor multiple years.
“I had a great time at PROMYS in 1992. It was a humbling experience to be surrounded by such bright mathematical minds, and it gave me my first glimpse into what it would be like to be a math major. I'll always remember that summer fondly.”
“Best thing I did in high school”
Student 2007 and 2008
"Classroom teacher participation is a particularly important component of PROMYS . . . Teachers acquire personal growth as they see how secondary students can be intellectually challenged to expand their mathematical horizons. They can derive much from observing how students act in an environment that nurtures the spirit of exploration and discovery. They can transfer and modify what they experience—both the content and the pedagogy—so that all students they reach in their respective schools can be beneficiaries of this exemplary program."
Professor Margaret J. Kenny
Boston College Mathematics Educator
"Considering the widespread disenchantment with mathematics and science that we witness in American schools today, PROMYS provides a model of how to bring the life and excitement of the subject to significant numbers of motivated students and teachers. . . . In summary, I believe strongly in the value of programs such as this."
Professor Hyman Bass
Columbia University Chair, AMS Committee on Education Chair, Mathematical Sciences Education Board at the National Resource Council
"From my own experience as a student, I know that enrichment programs for gifted high school students can have a major impact on the future careers of the participants. . . . The PROMYS program has been run successfully for about a decade at Boston University, exciting students and teachers with the experience of mathematical exploration. PROMYS graduates have then entered a variety of fields. This is a program worth supporting and continuing, and I'm happy to endorse it."
Professor Nancy Koppel
Boston University MacArthur Fellowship recipient Member, National Academy of Sciences
"In an era when agencies are seeking to promote and fund first-rate innovative programs of scientific and mathematical education, I would hope that the BU program PROMYS would be given the highest priority. . . . The mathematics is truly interesting, and the sessions, with their give-and-take, seem to be perfect training for budding scientists and mathematicians. In a word, PROMYS is a summer's worth of practice of 'doing mathematics' on quite a high level for high school students."
Professor Barry Mazur
William Petschek Professor of Mathematics Harvard University Member, National Academy of Sciences
"PROMYS is a wonderful way to reach out to talented high school students and their teachers. I view PROMYS . . . as vital."
Professor Ken Ribet
University of California, Berkeley Instrumental in solving Fermat's Last Theorem
"At Chelsea High School, we do a mathematics fair. Students do projects in mathematics ranging from history of math, to math in the real world (bridges/pyramids/dams), and many other topics (fractals, tessellations). Last year, before PROMYS, none of my students participated. This year I have six students participating. I hope to have more next year. . . .
"I have used some of the exploration activities which we have explored during the academic year in my classes. I am also working on a manuscript for the Mathematics Teacher for the 'Delving Deeper' section."
Chelsea High School
"The summer after attending PROMYS, I decided to move to Turkey to teach. The school that I am at has the reputation of attracting the brightest students in Turkey, but their achievements are based on a multiple-choice test. . . It was easy to adapt some of the PROMYS exploration problems and other EDC exploration materials for these students. With the time freedom that the program permits, I was also able to give 'problem set' type homework most evenings that get everyone in the class involved on some level. . . . With this, I am able to challenge their memorized approach to mathematics and improve their English. Most of the students like the different approach, but not all enjoy the added work of not memorizing whatever I tell them. . . .
"I also find myself often assigning homework without any explanation to see what ideas the class can generate on [its] own. I do find myself carefully planning the weeks so I can fit in an exploration project each semester based on the material we are studying. With these projects, I always try to get the students to think deeply about simple things.
"I am most pleased that I feel my students have a better idea of what mathematics is really like. The students here really love making conjectures and then trying to explain why they work. They have little interest in proofs, but they do understand the processes better. I really found PROMYS to be a great help and motivation as a new teacher."
St. George's School, Newport, RI
"PROMYS has had an incredible amount of impact on my teaching. Actually, I went through PROMYS for two summers before I became a teacher, so it's pretty fair to say that all of my teaching style and philosophy is based upon PROMYS.
"At BHS, I teach Honors Geometry and BC Calculus. . . And each of these classes, I run it PROMYS style. I lecture very little, and I use PROMYS-like daily problem sets where students do numerical computations, make conjectures, and prove their hypotheses. I believe (I'd like to, at least) that students benefit from this learning style. For tangible data, 75% of my BC Calculus students get 5's on their AP exams, and over 90% of them get 4's or 5's. . .
"The BHS Math Team has been doing quite well. During the time that I've been there (three years), we've come in 2nd or 3rd in the State Competition and 2nd in the New England Competition every year. This year, we won the GBML (Greater Boston Mathematics League) East Division, and we had four students qualified for the USAMO, the most in any high school in Massachusetts (tied with Lexington and Phillips Academy). We have had an increase in participation every year. . .
"PROMYS has inspired me so much. . ."
Brookline High School
I first went to PROMYS after my freshman year of high school. I chose to go to PROMYS because I wanted do math that was out of the regular high school curriculum. I particularly wanted exposure to math research. PROMYS combined an intense study of number theory and as well as an introduction to math research. This camp is similar to ROSS which I also thought about, but ROSS was further away. I did not have any interest in the camps that emphasized math competition preparation.
PROMYS 2011 was an intense, but satisfying 6 weeks of math. There were students from all 4 years of high school, but most were rising Juniors or Seniors so I was one of the few coming after freshman year. In the morning at 9:00 AM, we would head down to Glenn Stevens' number theory lecture and receive our daily number theory problem sets, which we would work on for the rest of the day. It was hard core; the problem sets tested your ability to think rather than any factual knowledge. Instead of having stuff taught to you, you figured out the number theory on your own. The counselors helped us by strengthening the rigor of our proofs while withholding the actual proof itself, letting the problem sets guide us to prove from scratch what we "knew" (and theorems we didn't know) about the system of integers. We were tested in a midterm and final exam in sections of rigor, proofs, numericals, and "miscellaneous."
In addition to the number theory, we had the option (which most of us took) of conducting a research project, choosing from a list of topics of interest. With some general questions to build on, we explored in groups of three to four and presented our findings at the end of PROMYS in a presentation and paper. The topics remain the same from year to year, but the experience of researching, making a paper, and presenting was invaluable.
Every week, we would have a taste of new and exciting math related topics in guest lectures from distinguished mathematicians from around the country. Every Friday, we would be forced to take a break and participate in Mandatory Fun, which ranged from poker night, to a dance, to an intriguing "movie" night. On the weekends, you can play sports and take trips around Boston. For the math-hungry, never fear: there is an extra long week-end problem set.
More about the activities outside of math: We played chess, ultimate frisbee, basketball, went swimming and took short trips throughout Boston (memorable excursions include Harry Potter opening at the movie theater summer 2011, fireworks July 4 at the Esplanade summer 2012). Usually a counselor or a group of kids decided they wanted to go to an event and organized it themselves. Still, most of the weekdays and weekends involved a lot of work on problem sets. This is where the time management comes in. You need to manage your schedule outside lectures yourself. It sounds like boot camp to say that we worked really intensely each day on problem sets. However, it was also a terrific feeling to be challenged to stretch your mind and the ultimate bonding experience with your peers to be struggling together.
I went for a second time to PROMYS after my sophomore year of high school. As a second year student, you have the opportunity to choose in-depth seminars. These seminar offerings vary each year. You can choose more than one topic, but they each have their own challenging problem sets. There are no midterm or final exams for these second year topics; instead, you take the number theory midterm and final for the second time. If you got a really high score the previous time you took the tests, you can take a shorter, but harder test. If you come back for a third year and you scored well on the short test, you can take an even shorter test with impossible questions that have never been solved before (or at least within the time limit).
Second years also have the option of conducting research projects, but the topics you choose from are new and unsolved problems posed yearly by professors with an interest in them. The process is much the same: in groups of three to four, you research, collect your findings, make a paper, and present at the end of PROMYS, but finding something new is incredibly exciting. This was my favorite part of last summer's camp.
I would highly recommend PROMYS to former alumni from MathPath. Both types of camps explore math outside of the school curriculum, require that you enjoy doing math around the clock, and are opportunities to meet other people with the same interests. However, MathPathers need to adjust to a different style of learning at PROMYS. MathPathers have elective classes with varying topics. PROMYS is all about number theory the first year. There is a lot of unstructured time at PROMYS. PROMYS is a lot like college where you seek out your counselors and work on your problem sets. Lectures are review because a lot of the learning is self driven.
MathPath was the place where I first learned about writing rigorous proofs and number theory. The exposure to proofs was especially helpful for PROMYS. After MathPath, I had the confidence to go to PROMYS. I think if you have never gone to a camp like MathPath, the PROMYS description of what you will do can be intimidating.
I think attending different camps with different styles is a good idea in terms of overall exposure for students who are uncertain what they might like. There is a danger in attending one camp and judging all math camps by the one. I was just fortunate to attend a camp that was a good fit for me from the start. I really liked number theory and I enjoyed the independence of unstructured time to think. I also connected with a lot of brilliant kids who I hung out with from the start. Late nights working on problem sets and eating ramen noodles while chatting with people who really like math was my kind of fun. Several of my friends came back the second year as I did."
Student 2011 and 2012
Posted on MathPath site
But anyway, the lectures are given by Prof. Glenn Stevens, a professor in mathematics in BU. Students also get to participate, though this is optional, in a research lab. They will research and investigate certain topics like:
-counting rational numbers
-linear diophantine equations
-pythagorean triples and sums of squares
and they will present a presentation and a formally written paper at the end of the program.
To me the program was very rewarding. If I had a chance to go back as a second-year student, I definitely would. (There is also a separate program for second-year students where they get to take courses in more advanced mathematics, such as geometry/symmetry and abstract algebra.) I loved being able to talk about math with students from all over the country. After lecture we would sit down at a table and spend all day solving problems together. It was like we were discovering new things."
Posted on the Phillips Andover site - under Testimonials 2012
Each year, Professor Glenn Stevens, the program director, hires approximately fifteen students as counselors. The counselors' main responsibility is to grade the students' daily problem sets, but counselors are also expected to monitor their students' progress, to be available to answer their questions, and to set an example for the students by conspicuously working on their own math throughout the summer. Counselors live in the B.U. dorms with their students and are expected to be on hand to organize social activities for the students on weekends.
Being a counselor at PROMYS is a wonderful way to learn math while working closely with talented and motivated students. Many of the more advanced number theory problems are interesting and challenging, even for counselors. In addition to Professor Stevens's basic number theory course, there are classes on more advanced topics for second- and third-year students, which counselors are encouraged to attend. Last summer, for example, there were courses on elementary group theory, algebraic number theory, and dynamical systems. There is a lot of work, but there is also plenty of time to socialize and to form friendships with students and with other counselors. I had a great time working at PROMYS last summer. I found it very rewarding, both mathematically and socially."
Student 1991 Counselor 1992
Posted on Harvard Math Department's REU review page
The purpose of PROMYS is to develop the students' interest in math. Each morning the students attend an hour lecture in number theory where they are given the day's problem set: numerical calculations, statements that they are asked to "prove or disprove and salvage if possible" and some tricky problems labelled "miscellaneous." Students look for patterns and make conjectures ("any conjectures?" is perhaps the most frequently asked question in the program.) The students never receive scores on the problem sets. They are instructed to finish as much as they can, and receive comments. Finishing the problem sets becomes steadily more difficult as the program progresses, and few students come close to finishing the problem sets in the second half of the program. The lack of grades enables the program to keep competition to a minimum. Students constantly work together and discuss the problems.
This brings us to the role of counselors. PROMYS hires 20 college students, some of whom were themselves students, to guide students through the program. Like the other counselors, I was assigned five students whom I was primarily responsible for (numbers varied slightly from counselor to counselor.) I commented on their problem sets, and discussed their work with them. We talked about the course and tried to resolve some difficulties. Besides his or her five students, the counselor is responsible for all of the students in the program. In the evenings, many students and counselors work together in a room called the "basement". Students work with students, students work with counselors, counselors work with counselors.
The students at PROMYS are very smart and motivated; working with them was one of the best parts of PROMYS. Working with the other counselors was also a great experience. The program at PROMYS can be taken at all different levels; it is hard to imagine anyone being bored by it! The number theory problem sets are extremely interesting, both in the problems themselves, and in the way that they are organized to lead up to important results. There are several more advanced courses that are taken by the returning students in addition to the number theory (all students take the number theory course, there is easily enough material there for several summers).
As a counselor, there is much opportunity to learn a lot of math. Besides the number theory problem sets, the more advanced courses are of interest to counselors. There are also seminars that counselors put on for themselves. Last summer's Modular Forms seminar developed a particularly cultish following.
Contrary to what it may seem from this description, we didn't do math all the time. The flexible nature of this program allows for much socializing. Counselors organized social events that range from somewhat normal to bizarre, but were always fun. Trips to surrounding colleges are also organized by counselors (if you've ever wanted to give a tour of Harvard, now might be the time to do it), as are games of ultimate, trips to Boston, etc. You won't get much sleep, but you will have an exciting and fun summer."
Counselor in 1993
Posted on Harvard Math Department's REU review page
I attended PROMYS as a student in the summers of 1996 and 1997, and returned as a counselor in the summers of 2000 and 2002. I credit PROMYS with opening my eyes to the possibility of becoming a professional mathematician, and for introducing me to the beauty of number theory. PROMYS has also had a significant impact on my views toward teaching mathematics, and I hope to continue my involvement with mathematics education at the high school level."
Student in 1996 and 1997 Counselor in 2000 and 2002
Posted on alum's Teaching and Advising page at the University of Arizona
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