Kind Words from Recent Alumni:
“HCSSiM showed me what learning math should feel like—thrilling, explorative, and collaborative. Having previously experienced math largely through school classes and contests, I expected to spend my summer grinding away at problem sets and cramming theorems into my brain. Instead, every day, I found myself immersed in a group of lively, passionate classmates, forgetting about our prior math knowledge, sharing the excitement of creating our own worlds of mathematics. From 3rd-grade division algorithms to tackling the P vs. NP problem, we became a team of archeologists, excavating the bones of a mathematical dinosaur and reconstructing its skeleton vertebrae by vertebrae. It genuinely amazes me how many times I’ve encountered an interesting math concept—whether at school, in conversation, or even online—and recalled, “wow, I explored this at Hampshire!”
Just as invaluable as my experiences at HCSSiM were the people I met there. Classmates and staff alike became close friends as we debated during problem sessions, pulled all-nighters together to go on the sunrise hike, or taught ourselves to make charcuterie boards to share with the program. Six weeks went by faster than I could count to 17, yet I will cherish the memories and friendships I made for a lifetime.
“Have you ever wanted to create your own math? Ever wondered how it would feel? Well, a quirky little summer program on a beautiful campus in Massachusetts has got you covered, as long as you’re prepared to ask questions. Lots of questions. During my first week at Hampshire, I didn’t know what hit me. I didn’t have friends who liked math much back home, and I had certainly never participated in any contests. A lot of the people around me knew cool theorems, and did more advanced math in school. At first, I felt behind. I got so confused, so many times. The thing about HCSSiM, though, is that that’s okay. It’s expected. You’re dipped into the sea of math, and you learn to stay afloat. The people I felt behind (whom I soon became friends with) were dipped into the same sea I was, and soon the knowledge we came in with began to not matter so much. It was all about trying to wrap our collective heads around mind-boggling math, and working together to build upon it. This is what makes Hampshire so special- you aren’t presented with pre-written proofs, you aren’t given theorems to memorize, or patterns to learn. Workshop starts with an intriguing problem- it is up to you to dig into it together. Through the (17-11) weeks you spend at Hampshire, you’ll explore deeper into the math you enjoy most- creating tools you need to understand it better yourself. You’ll recognize the patterns, you’ll come up with the conjectures, and you’ll write the proofs, before presenting them to your friends. You will create the theorems, and they will be yours. They will be yours to talk about, to ask and answer questions about, and to use to come up with more conjectures to prove and more theorems to talk about. The tapestry you weave with the friends you make will be yours, and it will serve as a reminder: it’s about growth, not knowth.
“When I first came to HCSSiM, I wasn’t prepared to spend my first few days of Workshop slicing watermelons with pizzas. I wasn’t prepared for the number of questions I’d have, or the challenge of making our own conjectures instead of just memorizing theorems. Hampshire urged me to ask “whys” in mathematics, and gave me the opportunity to do so with a group of passionate kids like me (I’ll miss turning the whiteboard into an idea dump during problem sessions.) During maxis and minis, I developed new interests in areas like surreal number game theory, elliptic curves, and group theory, allowing me to explore sides of mathematics that I’d never seen before.
However, the fun didn’t stop inside the classroom. Sleeping in Kern after a long sunrise hike, LaTeX-ing for the program journal, contradancing, and chugging “lohocla” (an extremely weird yet intriguing mix of different drinks) are just a few of the many moments I’ll never forget. I made some of my closest friends at Hampshire, people that caused me to tear up on the last day of the program as we parted ways. Although these six weeks passed in the blink of an eye, I can confidently say that my time at HCSSiM has taught me a lot more about myself and changed me for the better.
“On my first day at HCSSiM, I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to handle the mathematical content and that I would quickly fall behind because I didn’t have much experience with competition math, which I previously thought to be the primary determinant of mathematical success. Being at HCSSiM quickly shattered these misconceptions. On the first night, when we assigned notetakers via “rungs” and spent the next hour making conjectures about their properties, I realized that the atmosphere was supportive and collaborative, rather than competitive. To my relief, I was able to follow approximately 68% – 85% percent of the material (sometimes more) on any given day and solve interesting problems every p-set. I looked forward to every workshop, maxi class, and p-set (no matter how sleep-deprived I was), eager to make exciting discoveries and explore fascinating content with my classmates. I’ll never forget the countless whiteboard doodles from my workshop, the tissue box that we used for a Burnside’s Lemma exercise, and the ANT maxi duel. HCSSiM was equally amazing outside of the classroom. From sushi runs to Atkins every weekend, baking in the mods, spending hours at Kern, practicing piano in the practice rooms, pulling an all-nighter for the sunrise hike, and more… there are countably infinitely many possibilities for activities at HCSSiM and there are finitely many eager and amazing people to do them with. Warning: Attending the program may result in a severe obsession with yellow pigs and the number 17 (and all of its multiples).
“For those genuinely interested in the prospect of exploring different facets of math otherwise inaccessible to you in school, this will be the best six weeks of your life. The thing that makes HCSSiM so interesting is that it does not blindly give you a formula and tell you to apply it. The questions begin with “why”, for example, why does the formula you found work in these cases? Why does it not work in other cases, such as these systems you are exploring in your chaos theory maxi? Why is this a winning position in pig solitaire? (that is not a typo). However, the thing I remember the most is the group of people I was able to meet that had similar interests and wildly different ones. My mod, the HCSSiM equivalent of a dorm, had a tradition called “mod meetings” that we still honor to this day. I introduced and was introduced to new animes at watch parties in between classes. I was taught how to play pool and smash in ping pong, and still got demolished every time. HCSSiM is not a place, it’s a people. (We did it before Odin made it cool) And although it was hard to stop crying when I was leaving, I want you to be so lucky to have something that is so hard to say goodbye to.
“This six weeks of intense mathematics study promised thought-provoking lectures and vigorous discussions, but what I did not know was that this group of strangers would soon become a close-knit community of friends.
As someone accustomed to working on math problems independently, I was surprised when two of my classmates, excitedly joined me at the blackboard to work on solving a multigraph problem that we were all having trouble understanding during our first week of classes. It was my first introduction to the power and efficiency of collaboration in mathematics problem solving, but certainly not my last as I formed a study group with several other students to explore topics like the relationship between multigraph and unit distance in Euclidean space. The faculty members also became more like friends than advisors as they guided me through unfamiliar concepts like number theory, encouraging me to learn and grow by embracing that which I did not already know. Outside the classroom, we enjoyed each others company while hiking the Holyoke Ridge, enjoying the trip to Boston, and playing Frisbee.
Though we each returned home at the programs end, this six weeks of math study is the craziest thing I have done with math and people who share the same interest.”
“Just after my return back home after the program, I put all my HCSSiM notes into a box under my bed, thinking I would never use them again – I was proven to be completely wrong. Whenever I research about math or the school math teacher starts a new topic, I would always, totally unexpectedly, exclaim in surprise, ‘I actually learnt that already in HCSSiM!’ The variety of math topics I was exposed to (Make sure you find out more about that under About HCSSiM (Fun) — Courses, Usual and Unusual) vastly expanded my knowledge, picturing me an ‘overview of math’ and allowing me to pursue different areas of my own interest. In addition, as HCSSiM also led me to ‘experiment with math,’ I began to view math more creatively and understand the elegance behind different theorems.
Apart from math, I also made great friends in the program — in fact, I just met with two during the summer 2018. We were able to cook and bake ourselves, go on a Boston trip, or visit Amherst on the weekends. I learnt how to use Latex and attempted to edit the weekly program journal. About the last day of HCSSiM, I still remember having a crazy schedule of classes, packing, dinner and party at Susan’s house, followed by a ‘concert’ of math dance, hula loop and a music performance by me and another friend (which we prepared during the last three weeks). These experiences were especially valuable for me as an international student, and who had never a taste of boarding life before.”
“Before arriving at HCSSiM, I was terrified that I wouldn’t be smart enough to understand what was going on. Looking back now, I realize how misguided I was. Granted, there were definitely times where I didn’t know what was going on. But as Hampshire says, it’s about growth, not knowth. I learned the importance of collaboration and to be unafraid to ask for help. I made amazing friends and worked with incredibly supportive staff. Coming to Hampshire was one of the best choices I’ve ever made, although leaving was pretty painful. HCSSiM taught me life lessons I’ll keep with me forever.”
“When I left for HCSSiM, I was prepared for six weeks of exhausting, mind-boggling math and already couldn’t wait to fly back home. When I left HCSSiM, I was unprepared to end the six weeks of math movies, early morning hikes, Cap’n Crunch, Prime Time dozing, exciting and somewhat mind-boggling math, and most of all, I wasn’t prepared to bid goodbye to some of the best (and funniest) friends I’d made my whole life. The good news is that even after Hampshire, the connections I made and the interests I developed did not disappear, and I can confidently say HCSSiM has impacted my life for the better.”
— Grace ‘18
“Before Hampshire, I learned math in the way I thought you had to: I read part of a textbook alone, and then did the exercises. At Hampshire, things were done differently. We’d start with a problem, and then try to figure out how to solve it. But the staff wouldn’t write a solution on the board. We’d work on it with our friends until someone got it. And then once someone finally did, we’d hear them speak without knowing whether or not they were right. At home, I would read a textbook and then prove some theorems. At Hampshire, we’d come up with the definitions by ourselves and then conjecture the theorems on our own. And we’d be wrong. But we learned that, even if we were wrong at first, almost any good idea can be salvaged. The ideas came before everything. We didn’t prove random things about random structures, we turned ideas into theorems. And we did it together—I met some incredible people and we had a great time doing math together (and going to Atkins together, playing bridge together, and even trying to model ordinals with bread…). Six weeks at Hampshire changed the way I viewed math, and gave me some of the best experiences I’ve ever had. (Plus, almost 289 factoids about the number 17.)”
— Michael ‘18