I did mean to post a few more times in the week about how the camp was going, but somehow just didn’t find the time… On Tuesday and Thursday both I taught six sessions (and had a nice scratchy throat by the end of the day), and had done quite a lot of tech-type work, which I’ll be writing a later post on. The output of the automatic journal-upload system can be seen here; I thought it ended up being a good demonstration of the Power of Linux (and Python)!
And now for a number of unordered notes:
- The week’s mathematical content was broken up into five rough categories, just like last year. The themes this year were programming, math research, cryptography, statistics, and geometry.
- Programming was taught entirely without computers; we’re probably going to do a write-up of the ideas behind this and the methods involved. Basic idea being that we should get across the important ideas in writing code without letting the computer get in the way! The sessions were quite successful, I thought, and came back to the idea of writing precisely-executed instructions.
- The Math Research theme was about ways of taking one problem and viewing it from a different direction in order to get a better idea of it. This also went really well. The first talk was on a sort of mathy tic-tac-toe variant, and the last was on different representations of permutations (which are mainly viewed as too difficult for secondary school students).
- I only taught one crypto lesson, which kinda riffed on the Bruce Schnier algorithm in the Cryptonomicon. Introduced the idea of using a different permutation for each letter/word in a message, and showed a (very simple, not really crytographically sound) way to keep track of these permutations using a deck of cards.
- Stats I was almost entirely uninvolved in. But on the last day, the cultural attache from the US Embassy visited. They happened to wander through a stats session that was analyzing data from our mid-week questionnaire and got a lot of information about the student opinions in the process!
- Finally, I was also mostly uninvolved in geometry, except for helping to dream a little about a taxicab geometry session led by Emily and Jeff, and playing the straight-man during the final lecture on projective geometry with David. (An especially straight one, at that, since I was about to fall over from exhaustion by the time we got to it!)
- We also had a much more coordinated approach to physical games this year, led by a couple of the UK school teachers. The games were mainly ‘common’ games with twists on the rules, a perfect fit for the math camp, where we’re trying to get across both the importance of rules-systems and the idea that different sets of rules produce different results.
- I also wrote a math camp theme song, which I’ll share soon! It was performed twice, and the second performance turned into a bit of a sing-along, with lots of enthusiasm from the students.
Overall, I was really blown away by the enthusiasm of the students during the week. And a few definitely distinguished themselves, and I’m hoping to talking to them more in the future!
Now I’m in Nairobi, filled up with most delicious Ethiopian food, and it’s time to finally sleep. In fact, when we arrived in Nairobi I fell directly into a bed, shoes still on, and slept for three hours or so. Been some crazy long hours this week, but it’s been truly magical, and well worth the effort.
Ok, off to sleep!