We went for a beautiful, relaxing day in Kakamega Forest on Saturday night/ Sunday morning, and then came back to Maseno to meet the students as they arrived. In the end about 140 have enrolled (so far), putting us at about five times the size of last year’s camp. There are a few familiar faces from those 28, but the individual contact with the students has (so far) been a bit more sparse due to the increased size. However, it’s early in the week, and we’re making a number of adjustments which might help a great deal in creating more personalized interactions.
One of the main things we’ve done is break the camp up into four ‘houses,’ named for the mathematicians Pascal, Fermat, Nash, and Turing. We have some sessionsin which all the students attend, and others in which we’ve split the camp in two. For example, tomorrow I’m running or helping to run a 1.5 hour class on what math research is like; it’s an activity-based session, so it’s broken into two groups and will run twice during the day, concurrent with other activity-based sessions which benefit from smaller (ie, reasonable) class size.
Super tired after another long day; having some troubles with my house, but the camp’s been great… off to sleep now!
Oh, what a crazy week! So much we’ve done, so much to do.
Technology has been very up and down. On Tuesday I was banging my head against Windows (always a favorite activity) trying to get software for the camp installed. We’re using maybe six pieces of educational math software, in a lab with about 40 computers. About half the machines were playing nice, and half were refusing to take certain parts of the software group. So on Wednesday, I learned to use an awesome utility called CloneZilla: it allows you to clone one computer onto another, which is perfect in a lab situation where all of the computer hardware is the same. It’s basically a linux distro that lives on a usb key; it takes an image of the computer (in our case, a mostly fresh windows install + math software, this image was about 4.5gb) on another usb key. We can then replicate the image on another machine; the clone takes about 10-12 minutes to install. This is a LOT faster than reinstalling windows and all of the math software on the uncooperative machines! It also means that if any of the machines get borked over the course of the week that it will be an easy process to reset them to a sane state.
We’ve started the preparation week for the Maseno maths camp, and it’s off to a good start. It’s hard to do a whole lot of pre-planning of the curriculum before people actually arrive for a few reasons, especially as it’s hard to know what the volunteer participant list will look like before everyone’s here. This is partly to do with the maths themselves (different mathematicians are better for pitching different kinds of ideas to the students), and partly because the overall curriculum arises from a discussion process which is difficult to facilitate online. But we’re all here now, and we’ve got a pretty solid line-up plotted for next week. There’s a healthy amount of borrowing of content from last year’s math camp, but also a good range of ‘new’ material we’re looking forward to trying out.
Two big differences this year… First is the scale of the camp: we’re expecting somewhere between 100 and 150 students, up from the 28 we had last year. So a decent amount of this year’s camp will be about how things scale up. We’re expecting to do concurrent sessions, and will thus probably have multiple runs of each of the maths sessions.