SIMUW brings together participants from Washington, British Columbia, Oregon, Idaho, and Alaska with a background of at least three years of high school mathematics who have not yet completed high school. Admission is competitive, based on an assessment of ability in mathematics and enthusiasm for an intensive mathematical experience. Participants live in UW residence halls. Room, board, participation in all program activities, and a travel allowance are subsidized, thanks to an anonymous gift.
Six mathematicians from UW and elsewhere serve as the instructors, with the assistance of six teaching assistant counselors. In addition, other mathematicians and scientists from UW and elsewhere participate as special lecturers.
The program is divided into two-week blocks, with two instructors for each block. Participants meet with one of the instructors in a morning session and the other instructor in an afternoon session. During these sessions, participant grapple with mathematical problems that are designed to be challenging yet ultimately accessible. The instructors lecture to a limited extent, in order to provide necessary background, but the emphasis is on giving the participants the opportunity to tackle hard mathematical problems in collaboration with the staff.
A special program is arranged for Wednesdays. In the morning, a speaker from the campus or the region discusses the role mathematics plays in his or her work. The speaker may be a mathematician, or alternatively a scientist or engineer who uses mathematics in another field, such as physics, biology, atmospheric sciences, or electrical engineering. The lecture serves simultaneously to provide the participants with a break from their work during the rest of the week and to open vistas on subjects that lie ahead. After the talk, the speaker often spends some time with the participants. The afternoon session features a second speaker or, sometimes, a continuation of the morning program.
Participants spend some of their free time working individually or together on mathematical problems with their counselors. This is one of the most valuable and enjoyable parts of the program. Other free time is spent on recreational activities on campus or in the area. Trips are arranged on Saturdays to places of interest, such as local museums, a sporting event, or a variety of locations in downtown Seattle. Sundays are generally left open for group or individual activities.
You begin a typical weekday with a full breakfast at McMahon dining hall, or perhaps by grabbing a quick bite at Ian's Domain. Then you head off for the morning class, which runs from 9:15 AM to 11:45 AM. Lunch might be back at McMahon for an all-you-can-eat selection of hot dishes, sandwiches, salads, and dessert. Or, you may stop by the HUB for a choice from Pagliacci pizza, Subway, and the Asian, Italian, and Mexican food counters. Still another possibility is the outdoor food trucks in Red Square. There's plenty of time to eat, discuss math, play games, take a walk, or relax before afternoon class, which runs from 1:15 PM to 3:45 PM.
Late afternoon and evening activities vary from day to day. The two constants are math hour and dinner. On some days, you will meet in a small group with three other participants and a Teaching Assistant Counselor (TAC) for the math hour to review the mathematics of the day and discuss homework problems. On other days, all participants and TACs meet together, with the two instructors dropping by to see how things are going. The rest of the evening time may be free. Or perhaps you will be practicing your instrument, or preparing a skit for the upcoming talent show. Or solving math problems on Math Olympiad night. Or competing against staff in the annual basketball game on an outdoor court near the dorm, followed by a barbecue dinner.
Wednesdays have their own routine. Instead of regular classes, we offer special lectures, in which mathematicians or scientists provide glimpses of mathematical subjects in less depth than the regular classes, or discuss the use of mathematics in other scientific areas. Some Wednesday topics are hands-on, such as the all-day robotics class and all-day zometools competition. Wednesday evening is special too. It's pizza night, a gathering of all participants, TACs, instructors, staff, and even alumni. After dinner, a staff member may make a presentation about the development of his or her own mathematical career, after which it may be your turn to make a short presentations on a mathematical problem or puzzle that interests you.
Saturday is trip day. Accompanied by the TACs, the Residential Life Director, and the Activities Coordinator, you will get on a bus and strike off for downtown to see the Pike Place Market and ride the Seattle Great Wheel on the waterfront, or head to the Woodland Park Zoo to hang out with the animals, or perhaps go to nearby Fremont for a tour of Theo Chocolate. Plus, everyone loves to ride the boat through Seattle's waterways. And when July 4th comes around, weekday or weekend, it's time for a holiday barbecue.
Sunday activities are organized on a more impromptu basis, based on participant and TAC interest, with some perhaps going one way, others another. Staying in and working on math is always an option. Come Sunday evening, all participants and TACs regroup for a weekly community meeting to prepare for the week ahead.
Whatever the day, you will have plenty to keep you busy, mathematically and non-mathematically. From the orientation and pizza dinner on opening Sunday evening to the closing banquet six Fridays later—both open to your family too—the days will fly by and the end will come too soon.
|of Paris Mielke, a 2016 participant who is now an undergraduate at Carnegie Mellon University.|