When 19 math whizzes from as close as Walnut Creek and as far away as Las Vegas moved in to Saint Mary's last week for a unique math enrichment camp for gifted students, it wasn't all work and no play.

In fact, the camp's theme was "Serious Play – a look at the serious math behind child's play," and the young prodigies eagerly tackled the challenging branch of math known as combinatorial and classical game theory, a relatively new and stimulating field made famous in the movie "A Beautiful Mind."

Evans Hauser, a camper from Piedmont High School, said he loved the exploration of game theory and the chance to get to know fellow math enthusiasts. "Normally at school, I don't have a group of friends who are excited about math," said the ebullient teen. Nathan Hill of Walnut Creek liked the fact that the weeklong camp seemed less structured and more stimulating than other workshops he had attended. "It's like an experience of college," he said.

Unlike most math camps, the Saint Mary's experience was free, thanks to a grant from the Dolciani Foundation through the Mathematical Association of America. All expenses and food were covered, offering a chance for students who might not normally be able to participate to explore advanced math concepts in an engaging summer camp atmosphere.

Professors Chris Jones and Weiwei Pan of the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science ran the camp, assisted by math majors Will Overell and Kelsey Ingham, who acted as teaching assistants and resident advisers. During the camp, the faculty, students and campers all stayed at Saint Mary's special science residence, Assumption Hall, sharing thoughts and meals as a community.

Along with game theory, students also learned about the faculty members' areas of research, questioned a panel of current Saint Mary's students about what it takes to major in math or science in college, and even applied voting theory to pick an afternoon activity or T-shirt design.

Professor Chris Jones
and Teresa Castle, College Communications

Photos by Thomas Vo '11 and Teresa Castle

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