Hampshire College

I remember hiking up Laelae on the first day back from school when I asked Bruce Kim what he had done over the summer. With a big smile, he explained that he went to math program: eight hours of math a day for six weeks. Bruce is one of the most passionate people I know, and he continued to follow his passions this summer by traveling to Hampshire College in Amherst Massachusetts. There he was able to learn the basics of advanced mathematics.

Bruce started to get interested in math in elementary school. “When I went to Canada I definitely excelled at it, so that helped me like math more”. However, he says that the first moment that that he began to feel passionate about math was when he read a book about Euler’s equation. “Though I never understood how the equation came to be until the end of AP calculus BC, it looked really cool. That equation still amazes me, it looks beautiful to me”.

Bruce explained that he applied to three different math programs over the summer, but ended up choosing this one, because it wasn't just focused on pure math or number theory. “This camp was a little different because it offered more areas for exploration. Not only number theory, but also group theory, combinatorics, geometry stuff”. For the first three weeks of the program everyone takes foundational classes. For the second half of the program, each student could chose a concentration in either probability, geometry, or combinatorics. Bruce ended up choosing geometry, and spent most of the remaining three works learning about geometry in a non-Euclidean setting.

In the morning, Bruce attended a four-hour lecture where the students would learn and discuss new math concepts. After the morning class, there was free time, and then a special one hour lecture in the evening, followed by problem session, where they would work through problems based on the new concepts that had been taught in the morning class. “There was a lot of teamwork and I really liked that about this camp. Other camps were more focused on the individual, but this camp never encouraged competition. There were no comparison, no grades, no test, no quizzes, and no ranking”.

Bruce liked that the camp allowed him to meet other students who loved math. “I thought that I was passionate at math, but I found other people who were more passionate, and more experienced and knowledgeable with math than me”. Bruce said that he was surprised that many of the students, especially many of them who were younger than him could pick up many of the topics that were discussed during the program faster than he could. “Not that I was discouraged, but I think I had more experience about what it would feel like to do this in college, and what I could be expecting, and what I should be practicing more”.

In college, Bruce explains that math classes are very different from the math that many of us are used to in school. “This was the first opportunity I got to see what college math looks like with more axioms and more proofs”. Bruce says that he wants to major in mathematics, although he is not quite sure what area he wants to go into. “Going into the math program, I thought I would get a better idea of what math, what specific area of math I liked. But since I got overwhelmed with so many different topics, and most of them were really cool, I can’t really say which one was my favorite”. He still isn’t quite sure what career he wants to go into, explaining that there are many fields you can go into with a math degree. He looks forward to continuing to explore the different areas in math as he goes into college.

Photo by Michael Duggan '17.