Testimonials

Students and Counselors
Faculty and Colleagues  
Alum Reviews of PROMYS

Students and Counselors

“My PROMYS experience convinced me that I wanted to be a mathematician.”

Qiaochu Yuan
Student 2006  Counselor 2012

"It has been an enlightening and delightful summer full of maths, insight and great people … At PROMYS, you will certainly have to work hard, pushing your horizons and thinking in new ways, but the challenges presented and the environment provided is perfect for this – to advance you mathematically and philosophically.  It’s undoubtedly been the most productive summer I’ve ever had...an odyssey of self-discovery, mathematical learning and fun."

Bohan Yu (UK)
Student and CMI-PROMYS Scholar 2013, 2014

"The purpose of the program seemed to be, to me, to burrow into the stem cells of mathematics using the eyes and ears of our minds. I fell in love with something I thought I knew all over again. The program achieves its goals spectacularly. ….Even when I wasn’t directly working on mathematics, my brain was swimming it." 

Shakthi Shrima
Student 2013, 2014

“PROMYS has been what I most look forward to for the last three years.”

Roger Van Peski
Student 2012, 2013, 2014

“I have greatly benefited from my time at PROMYS. I have learned a lot, but also I have developed a lot of skills of a bold and curious explorer. Every element of the program makes it the best!At the other places where I was learning math, students were competing, while at PROMYS students only help each other and cooperate with each other.

Guest lectures have had a great influence on my attitude toward math. So called “applied math” turned out to be sometimes no different from “pure math” with the exception that more people want to know the results of “applied” math! I have learned that math is actually very close to real life while I used to doubt it.

My experience at PROMYS and Oxford Masterclass taught me that while there’re a lot of things to learn, there’re a lot more to discover… I didn’t expect we would go this deep into some fields of mathematics, but we did and that was great!After this wonderful journey into math, I’ve realized that my curiousity about mathematics transformed into more mature interest which I am intending to follow.”

Polina Belopashentseva (Russia)
Student and CMI-PROMYS Scholar 2014

“I learned much and more mathematics here, and it was greater than I could have imagined, it really fueled my love for the sub­ject. Nevertheless, I think that I have learned some things of even greater importance, the most influential of which certainly is a very general, humble attitude of the mind — to think about mathematics as an explorative experience rather than a deductive language, to always think thoroughly and carefully, even about simple things, and to reflect upon what one is doing.

It shouldn’t be shorter, because at the end of the sixth week, everything came together beautifully, and because in order to really focus and understand (“feel”) the core ideas of PROMYS, a long period of time is necessary. I wouldn’t mind if it were longer, and it could only get better that way, but that would create difficulties when embedding PROMYS into the summer holidays (and generally, into the lives) of the participants.”

Lucas Mann
CMI-PROMYS Scholar 2013 and Counselor 2014

“PROMYS has been an amazing mathematical experience, and I think it will catalyze my intellectual development. Glenn Stevens is definitely one of the most inspiring math teachers I have ever had. I really appreciate the hard work that everyone involved put into the program. Thank you all very much for all you've done this summer.”

Student in 2014

“Before I came to PROMYS I liked math and attended a couple of other math programs. Walking in, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. The problem sets at times were so frustrating. But I noticed how much I grew as an individual. PROMYS showed me the beauty of mathematics along with many other branches of math. Now I feel like I love math more than ever did before. From bashing numerical examples to proving theorems with extremely clever ways, PROMYS showed me it all.

PROMYS is an experience of a lifetime.  Anyone who is involved in the world of mathematics should have the opportunity to come to PROMYS.”

Kathryn Zhao
Student 2014

“PROMYS is an amazing program where I was challenged immensely but this only helped to push me to become a better mathematician. I’ve become friends with the brightest students from across the world and had memories and experiences I will cherish forever. I cannot express my appreciation to the PROMYS program for his wonderful summer.”

Jason Lee
Student 2014

“This summer in PROMYS was a really great introduction to research in mathematics and gave to me a lot of things to think about in mathematics! The elements that I really enjoyed and I found very useful was the learning process: We never obtain any lists of proofs to learn by heart and then try to understand, but we are guided thanks to the counselors and the examples givens in the exercises to understand by ourselves “what’s going on ?” ! Generally, when we have already understood “what the problem is?” the proof became natural in our minds and we feel very happy. After that, we also really want to understand more and try to generalize what we proved: PROMYS help us to do that and it’s really cool.”

Wassim Trabelsi (France)
Student and CMI-PROMYS Scholar 2014

"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."

Jonathan Hanke
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."

Joshua Greene
Student 1991 and 1992  Counselor 1996 and 1997 (Head Counselor)

“A defining three summers in my life. I wouldn't trade them for anything and would recommend the program to anyone.”

Tom Zavisca
Student 1989 and 1990  Counselor 1991

"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."

Eleanor Williams 
Student 1996

"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."

Ria Persad
Student 1990  Counselor 1991. 

"PROMYS was an incredible experience; it changed the way I think."

Mitchell Harris
Student 2011 and 2012

"During the summers after 11th and 12th grade I attended a summer program called PROMYS held at Boston university. The program’s ostensible subject is elementary number theory, but in truth it is a passionate case for a mathematical worldview devoid of pretension or egotism, driven instead by the search for holism, simplicity, and rigor. As such, PROMYS offers a window into mathematics as an academic discipline. In contrast to the typical outlet for young mathematicians’ enthusiasm, math contests, PROMYS focuses on collaboration and most importantly on communication; PROMYS provides a background in the proof, the preeminent tool of formal mathematical expression. The problem sets, which constantly challenge one to prove, or disprove and salvage (PODASIP for short), are crucibles within which deep understanding and over which lifelong friendships are forged. Finally, Glenn Stevens, the head lecturer and the man whose spirit endows the program with its intellectual and communal focuses, is the best teacher I’ve ever had and almost surely the funniest research mathematician in the world (his frequent in-lecture jokes are notoriously side-splitting). Glenn lectures quickly but with clarity, engages deep mathematics but always strives for simplicity, and finally his enthusiasm and passion for math are downright infectious."

Gabriel Ravel
Student 2012 and 2013
First posted on the New York Times site 

“PROMYS has been the greatest summer of my life. Nothing else can describe it aptly.”

Koert Chen
Student 2014

“PROMYS was a great experience filled with math and interesting people. Doing psets all day sounds like a lot of work but the fact that you’re surrounded by friends who all love math makes it awesome.”

Kara Luo
Student 2014

“The way math is approached is different to the Olympiad-focused view I’m used to. That greatly enriches my math experiences.”

Felix Hilsky (Germany)
Student and CMI-PROMYS Scholar 2014

“Overall, this turned out to be an amazing experience! I had the chance to learn a lot of interesting things, some of which I was able to understand on a deeper level than before, and I’m extremely grateful for this opportunity!”

Andi Gabriel Brojbeanu (Romania)
Student and CMI-PROMYS Scholar 2014

"These were the best six weeks of my life.  I've met a lot of interesting people, do a lot of math and made a lot of friends.  And when I've thought that life just couldn't get any better than this, surprise! Best experience ever!  

Andreea Iorga (Romania)
Student and CMI-PROMYS Scholar 2013

"PROMYS gave me the opportunity to learn to think in different ways.  There is no place I would have rather spent this summer."

Samuel Song
Student 2013

"PROMYS pushed me out of my comfort zone and exposed me to a completely different way of learning and exploring math."

Sunny Yan
Student 2013

"PROMYS definitely helped me understand what exploration and research in mathematics is like, and also taught me how to get started." 

Steven Kwon
Student 2013

"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 students 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."

David Speyer
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.”

Paul Witinski
Student 1993

"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."

Ila Varma 
Student 2004, 2005  Counselor 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 (Head Counselor), and 2010 (Head Counselor)

“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.”

Francois Greer
Student 2005  Counselor 2009 and 2010

"I'll be starting grad school at the University of Chicago in fall 2012. I'm excited to continue pursuing mathematics as a career - I can't wait to get started doing research and teaching. My enthusiasm is thanks to my wonderful experiences at PROMYS"

Zev Chonoles
Student 2007 and 2008   Counselor 2011 and 2012

“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.”

Mimi Cukier
Counselor 2002

“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.”

Wesley Terwey
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."

Andy Itsara
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.”

William Shore
Student 2003 and 2004

"PROMYS was absolutely a defining summer in countably infinite many ways!"

Sam Rosenberg
Student 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."

Sarah Eggleston
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."

Peter Frazier
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."

Bryden Cais
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."

Edward Early
Student 1993 and 1994  Counselor 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, and 2000 Returned as Research Mentor

"My experience at PROMYS '99 was amazing. It was a humbling experience to learn with extremely bright people; PROMYS provided me with a memory of a lifetime. Even to this day, I tell people about the amazing things that are happening at PROMYS!"

Khem Veasna 
Student 1999

"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."

Li Yu
Student 1994  Counselor 1995, 1996, and 1997

"PROMYS was like losing my intellectual virginity. I was 15. It was amazing."

Roona Ray
Student 1995

"Not only was it an awesome experience but it has given me opportunities that have played a significant role in shaping my life."

Alex Shtut
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
Student 1997 

“I would definitely recommend PROMYS to other mathematically ambitious students in my country, because PROMYS was one of my best summers ever and I would recommend the way of learning math which is used at PROMYS to every student.”

Tim Bloedtner (Germany)
Student and CMI-PROMYS Scholar 2014

“It’s much more fulfilling to learn by making conjectures and working on their proofs than any other way. It also gives you more understanding of the results you established and how to use them. 

I think 6 weeks is about the right length for PROMYS. On the one hand I would love to stay much longer and feel like the time passed by very quickly. On the other hand PROMYS is a really intense program and much more than six weeks would probably be too much.This summer was definitely one of the best summers in my life.”

Liam Hughes (UK)
Student and CMI-PROMYS Scholar 2014

“I discovered whole new branches of mathematics which motivated me to continue with studying maths. Instead of the abrupt way of reading maths online or in books, PROMYS lets you try to come up with these things by yourself. Learning yourself the technique of conjecturing and proof PROMYS gives you this unique different approach of really struggling of problems and doing wonderful discoveries by yourself. This program totally changed my point of view.”

Art Waeterschoot (Belgium)
Student and CMI-PROMYS Scholar 2014

“The program really helped me learn how to approach new problems, and helped me develop my teamwork skills. I really liked how the lectures were around 3 days behind the psets – I really enjoyed discovering things by myself.”

Tomoka Kan
Student 2014

 “I have greatly benefited from PROMYS in many ways. Besides learning a lot of interesting math I was able to improve my English and made friends with lots of new people….Counselors as well as second years and other first years were very helpful with math (in their own ways) and all the people are very welcoming and open-minded.”

Anna Köhne (Germany)
Student and CMI-PROMYS Scholar 2014

“I found the PROMYS community to be extremely welcoming and supportive. In fact, I believe this community to be a large reason for the continued success of the program. I hope to stay in touch with people from PROMYS as PROMYS has brought me into contact with a great community full of interesting people with similar interests to myself.

PROMYS taught me that mathematics is not just an individual pursuit where one is in competition with everyone else and also indicate to me that one learns mathematics by doing it and not just by reading about it.

The CMI-PROMYS International Alliance is an amazing opportunity to not only learn about interesting mathematics, but also to interact with a community full of great, friendly people that are passionate about mathematics. The mathematics is intriguing and complemented by the community that supports you throughout your journey. Often one may find that you can learn an extraordinary amount from one’s peers who are travelling the same journey.”

Bohan Yu (UK)
CMI-PROMYS Scholar 2013 and Returning Student 2014

“I feel like I benefited, mathematically, in particular in rigorous proof writing, ordering the thoughts to get an overview and making conjectures (after finding evidence through numerical examples).I learnt a lot from the other people, which was definitely the most worthwhile element of the program (different than I am used to from competition math, at PROMYS everybody helps everybody out).The PROMYS community is very supportive and welcoming. I will definitely stay in touch with the amazing friends I made.

Thanks to being six weeks, PROMYS allows one to only focus on math, in particular just one topic, and lets one experiment a lot more on your own, which I found a very rewarding experience. At PROMYS lecture is more like a review instead of introducing the new material, which I found great, because you get to discover the thing on your own, and you don´t miss any since you go to lecture.

It was great! Not only because the problem sets are really well designed and give you a guidance you would otherwise not have, but also because you meet a lot of interesting people, make incredibly good friends and have an amazing time while learning a lot. If you like math PROMYS is the way to go!”

Marc Isern Hacker (Spain)
Student and CMI-PROMYS Scholar 2014

“Even though it was really tough and we had to work a lot, it was about something I like, so I enjoyed it as any other camp. It was really really good stuff!”

Ruizhe Yu Xia
Student 2014

“’We started from the bottom now we’re here’ Drake (Started from the Bottom)”

Albert Wang
Student 2014

“You probably love math if you participate in PROMYS. Now you must try new things especially the ones that don’t work or embarrass you, like a madman. Try to embrace not only others’ mistakes, but also yours.”

Hyun Jong Kim
Student 2011, 2012, 2014

"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."

Yuen-Jong Liu
Student 1997

“I still come back to Professor Stevens telling us all "to think deeply of simple things."

Michael Jan
Student 1999 and 2000

“PROMYS opened my eyes to a world of mathematics in which passion was not the direct consequence of ease.”

Charlotte Chan
Student 2006; Counselor 2010, 2011 (Head Counselor), and 2012 (Head Counselor)

“PROMYS was my first long term away from home camp and it was probably one of the funnest experience ever :) “

Lisa Leung
Student 2000

"Being around a group of people who are all working towards a common goal (learning math) is inspiring, year after year. The experiences at PROMYS really lead you to appreciate the beauty in math."

Maggie Yuan
Student 2012 and 2013

"CMI-PROMYS was a defining experience for me and gave me enormous insights both mathematically and emotionally."

Student and CMI-PROMYS Scholar 2013

“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.”

Dan Huang
Student 2007

"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."

Christian Counts
Student 1989

“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!”

Amit Srivastava
Student 1990

“Quite possibly the best two summers of my life.”

Donald Bruckner
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

"PROMYS was the most fun I’ve ever had!"

Yevgeniy Antipov
Student 2013

"Even if you think you know elementary number theory well, you will learn a lot at PROMYS."

Michael Seaman
Student 2013

“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 

"PROMYS is a great experience, and I have met many great people, and I have learned so much this summer."

Stephanie Ren
Student 2013

"PROMYS taught me so much in so little time and I wish the program could continue."

Phillip Yoon
Student 2013

"PROMYS is the best place!" 

Uma Roy
Student 2012 and 2013

"I still have many fond memories of the summer, especially all of the other students I met. It was wonderful! " 

Karon Von Antwerp
Student 1989

“I love PROMYS!!”

Anna Majeed
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.” 

Nicholas Davidenko
Student 1992

"If you love math, come to PROMYS!"

Vivek Shankar
Student 2013

“Best thing I did in high school”

Gabriella Ehrlich
Student 2007 and 2008

"It’s not all math.  The social aspect is great too."

Henry Swanson
Student 2012 and 2013

"PROMYS is awesome!!!!!!!!:-) "

Suna Kim
Student 2013

"The classes are incredibly intense and require a good deal of rigor, but you learn a lot from the program, even if you already have a background in number theory." 

Nicholas Wu
Student 2013

"It was one of the best experiences of my life."

Brian Zhao
Student 2013

"It was really great and I think I have learned as much in 6 weeks as I have in a year at school."

Andreas Ravichandran 
Student 2013

"It is the smartest and most helpful program I’ve ever been to; and probably the best I will ever go to."

Glenn Zhang
Student 2013

"Great camp!  I learned a lot of cool things and really developed my mathematical ability."

Austin Wang
Student 2013

"PROMYS is a program for those who truly love mathematics and appreciate its beauty and helps its love and appreciation grow."

Chris Zhang
Student 2013

"I think one thing to mention is that the experience is as great as it is not just because of math but because of the PEOPLE (students, counselors) who are as into math as you are." 

Yael Goldstein
Student 2012 and 2013

"I just can say is the most incredible experience I have had.  So incredible that I wish there was a second years scholarship so I could have the opportunity to come again." 

Student and CMI-PROMYS Scholar 2013

"It would be good if there were scholarships for second year students because this summer was the best summer I’ve ever had and I certainly want to come back again."

Student and CMI-PROMYS Scholar 2013

"It's an incredible experience and those who love math should try to participate."  

Spyros Koutroulis (Greece)
Student and CMI-PROMYS Scholar 2013

"PROMYS is awesome.  Apply!"

Koen Doodeman (Netherlands)
Student and CMI-PROMYS Scholar 2013

"I recommend people who like math to participate in it … PROMYS has been one of the best experience I had. … I just can say it's been an incredible experience. 

Marc Tricas Perramon (Spain)
Student and CMI-PROMYS Scholar 2013

"PROMYS is a great experience that really changed my view on math." 

Gina Han
Student 2013

 

Faculty and Colleagues

"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

 

Alum Reviews of PROMYS

"I really enjoyed PROMYS, but the kind of fun you get at PROMYS is based on really hard work and interaction with others who like the same thing, as you will see below.

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."

Nic Trieu
Student 2011 and 2012
Posted on MathPath site

"PROMYS is short for Program in Mathematics for Young Scientists. It is a 6-week program in mathematics that takes place in BU during the summer. All first-year students take a course in number theory. There is a lecture every weekday from 9:00 to 10:30 am, and after lecture every day we get a problem set for us to solve for that day. It is really not like homework assignments for math class. The problem sets contain problems that are so much more thought-provoking. Even spending all day long with one problem set is not enough to solve the problem set.

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
  • fibonacci numbers
  • 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."

Joshua Kim, Student 2012
Posted on the Phillips Andover site - under Testimonials 2012

"PROMYS is a great program. The ideals of the program are given by 'To think deeply of simple things' - Arnold E. Ross. I quickly learned that simple does not equal easy and to question any result that I accept as true. The core class was number theory, where we began by seeking rigorous proofs for basic results using only the axioms for the integers. Through this process we realized how naturally these results generalized to other things. Eventually we were able to prove beautiful results such as the law of quadratic reciprocity. In addition, I took abstract algebra and exploration lab. Due to the rigor and exploration involved, by the end of the program I felt a deeper understanding of mathematics, as opposed to the mystery of plugging numbers into formulas without knowing why they work. PROMYS was an invaluable benefit to my mindset. Thanks Mu Alpha Theta for the [grant]!" 

Lawrence Wu
Student 2012
Posted on Mu Alpha Theta site 

"PROMYS is a fabulous program. A Number theory class is the core class that students must attend everyday. In the class, Professor Glenn Stevens taught us to think differently from what we have been taught from high school. The class opened our views in the field of mathematics. In addition to the core classe, there were non-mandatory classes (such as Modulo Forms, Geometry and Symmetry, Exploration Labs, Research Labs, Abstract Algebra) provided to help us to expand our knowledge. I chose Geometry and Symmetry. In that class, Professor Rosenberg introduced various forms and numerous ideas of Geometry to us. The ideas I learned through the program, may apply to areas other than mathematics. I enjoyed the program throughout the whole six weeks."

Yuehan Huang
Student 2007
Posted on Mu Alpha Theta site

"PROMYS (Program in Mathematics for Young Scientists) is a six week summer program at Boston University for high school students. It began as an offshoot of the number theory program at OSU and its aim is to introduce talented high school students to higher mathematics through an intensive number theory course.

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."

Leslie Mayer
Student 1991  Counselor 1992
Posted on Harvard Math Department's REU review page

"Last summer I worked as a counselor at PROMYS (Program in Mathematics for Young Scientists). PROMYS is a six-week program run by Boston University, and is funded by the NSF. The director of the program, Glenn Stevens, is a mathematics professor at BU. Last summer there were eighty students, mostly from high school, who had strong interests in math.  

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."

Jessica Wachter 
Counselor in 1993
Posted on Harvard Math Department's REU review page

"The past few summers, she has been involved with PROMYS a challenging program designed to encourage ambitious high school students to explore the creative world of mathematics. The program is based at Boston University. Each summer, approximately 60 high school students from around the country gather on the campus of Boston University for six weeks of rigorous mathematical activity. Through their intensive efforts to solve an assortment of unusually challenging problems in Number Theory, participants will practice the art of mathematical discovery.

This past summer, Blair Dowling was a counselor for the program. The duties she writes, were to grade the daily homework in Number Theory for three or four students. More importantly, counselors will be available to help students through informal discussions as questions arise. We rely on counselors to create an intense atmosphere of interaction crossing many levels of mathematical experience. Consistent with this goal, counselors and participants will be housed together on campus. In addition, the PROMYS counselor staff is invited to organize "mini-courses" on themes of their own choosing in order to introduce students to a broad variety of mathematical ideas. During the program, counselors are invited to study mathematics independently by participating in seminars and interacting individually with the faculty.

I was one of two head counselors for the program. As such, my duties included all those of a regular counselor, plus various administrative responsibilities - running counselor meetings, arranging for various scheduled activities to take place, dealing with any problems between the program and the university (residence halls), and basically making sure that things were running smoothly, taking care of any issues as they arose. Additionally, I ran a "mini-course" of four lectures on the subject of Cryptography, introducing students to secret and public-key systems, RSA, El-Gamal, zero- knowledge proofs, and secret-sharing, with special emphasis on the number theory behind some of these systems. To further my own mathematical education, I participated in a counselor seminar on Modular Forms, which met two or three times a week.

I feel that the program offers a unique experience of true immersion in rigorous mathematics and an excellent introduction to the logic and thought process which is so essential in higher math. My experiences with the program were positive, and I enjoyed working with exceptionally bright students, and learned a lot (both about math, and about working with students) in the process." 

Blair Dowling
Student in 1998. Counselor in 1999 and 2001 (Head Counselor)
Posted on Georgia Tech Undergraduate Math Department site. Blair was the President of the Undergraduate Math Club.

"The Program in Mathematics for Young Scientists is an intensive six-week summer camp for aspiring mathematicians in high school. The program emphasizes mathematical discovery through an immersive environment centered on learning elementary number theory. Approximately 60 high school students are guided on the path of discovery by 15 counselors (college students usually majoring in math) and a team of top-notch professors in the mathematics department at Boston University. Daily lectures are delivered by the program founder, Glenn Stevens, whose energy and enthusiasm for mathematics is contagious.

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."

Bryden Cais
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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