Q&A about the life of a Mentor

All positions have now been filled for Mathcamp 2018.

The mentor job is a hybrid between a teaching position and a camp counselor role. Your primary responsibility is to teach great classes, and you'll be doing this in the context of summer camp: you live, eat, and play with the campers. It's a lot of work and a lot of fun.

What does the day-to-day schedule look like?
Do I get time off?
Are all the classes taught by mentors?
What kinds of math should I teach? How much background do the students have?
I'm interested in problem solving. Can I teach that?
What about computer science?
Aside from teaching, what are the other job responsibilities?
What is the compensation?
What are the dates?

Q: What does the day-to-day schedule look like?
A: A typical day looks like this.

At Mathcamp, weeks start on Tuesday, and classes are offered from Tuesday to Saturday. During the week, in the morning and early afternoon, there will be four 50-minute blocks for classes and time set aside for lunch. You will be typically teaching during one of those four class blocks, and can do what you want during the other three. Most of the campers will be busy in classes, so the three blocks of downtime are great for things like: class-planning, sitting in on other people's classes, or sleeping in. In the afternoons, you'll hold informal office hours ("TAU": Time, Academic, Unscheduled), and if you're interested, you can attend the colloquium talk.

During the evening, campers and staff will organize lots of events and just hang out. You can partake in the events however much you want/have time for, or spend time preparing for classes and relaxing!

Saturdays are considered a weekday, but they work a bit differently. There are still four class blocks, but no TAU or colloquium. Instead, you'll have some time to meet with your academic advisees, and the campers participate in relays. (Relays are fun problem-solving competitions that often involve campers running/swimming/playing games.)

Sunday and Monday are the weekend at Mathcamp. Field trips happen on these days, and there is lots of spare time to recover and prep class.

Q: Do I get time off?
A: There is no formally scheduled time off, but you get to choose how much time you want to interact with campers and how much downtime you need. It is important to have a rapport with the campers so that you will have good attendance in your classes, and you'll have lots of opportunities for informal playing with campers. However, your health, sanity and class preparedness are your top priorities. Some staff view interacting with campers as their downtime, while other staff enjoy leaving campus to recuperate. (But don't expect to get research or serious math studying done during camp: you'll be too busy.)

Q: Are all the classes taught by mentors?
A: Most of the classes are taught by mentors. There are also a few full-time instructors ("faculty") who are past grad school, and we'll periodically bring in guest speakers to give classes and colloquia. (The guest lecturers are specifically chosen for being awesome expositors and interesting people; you can hang out with them and learn neat stuff!) Sometimes short courses are taught by our undergraduate counselors, too! More info here.

Q: What kinds of math should I teach? How much background do the students have?
A: The process of figuring out what classes you teach takes a bit of time. Mathcamp wants you to teach whatever you're excited about teaching, and you'll be paired with a more experienced Mathcamp instructor (your "mentor buddy") to help you pick your topics and craft your courses.

Campers come in with different backgrounds; some will be writing proofs for the first time at Mathcamp, and others will be ready for a sophisticated course in algebraic geometry. You can assume all the students have seen high school math up through Precalculus, and either have already or will get in the first week of camp a grounding in the fundamentals (like basic proof techniques, set notation, modular arithmetic, etc). As an overgeneralization, you can think of the new campers as being very good undergrads just starting upper division math, with returning (alumni) campers having had a bit more mathematics experience. Regardless, expect your students to be bright, creative, and very eager to learn!

You can also choose the difficulty level of your course and specify whatever prerequisite material you think is appropriate and reasonable. Classes are listed in the course catalogue using a scale of 1 to 4 chili peppers; in a 1 chili pepper class, every camper should be able to follow, whereas in a 4 chili pepper class, you can challenge the strongest student.

You can see the range of classes taught last year here.

Q: I'm interested in problem solving. Can I teach that?
A: Yes! While not a major focus at Mathcamp, we do have some students who are interested in problem-solving courses: some of these students will be competition novices, and others will have IMO medals. You can teach a full schedule of problem solving (1-2 classes per day), or a mix of problem solving and other topics. You can also take responsibility for creating and coordinating the weekly Team Problem Solving competition at camp. More info here.

Q: What about computer science?
A: Every year we try to include several computer science classes. In the past topics have included cryptography, quantum computing, and computational complexity theory. These classes are often very popular with the students and so we are excited to have applicants who are interested and able to teach them. Sometimes these classes are taught by math graduate students with an interest in CS, but in the past we have also had mentors who are computer science students with a strong interest in mathematics.

Q: Aside from teaching, what are the other job responsibilities?
A: There's a significant non-mathematical aspect of the job, too: mentors, like everyone on the Mathcamp staff, are involved in the running of the program, from the mundane (buying post-its) to the philosophical (debating camp policies) to the absurd (playing blindfolded charades with campers). The whole staff together makes the program into the magical place that it is; we are all looking out for the students' well-being, and inventing new and creative ways to make camp a better experience. We're also all pitching in to get the day-to-day stuff done: you might chaperone a field trip, take a camper to the doctor, or make a run to the grocery store for more cookies. You might also sing with the students in the camp choir, lead a salsa-dancing workshop, or go on a sunrise hike. Teaching comes first, but mentors wear many hats.

Q: What is the compensation?
A: Mentors receive a stipend of $4,000 as well as transportation and room/board for the duration of the program. While this is small material recompense for the amount of work and responsibility, we hope that you will choose, as we do, to consider Mathcamp a labor of love. (Mathcamp's resources are limited, and our priority is student scholarships.)

Q: What are the dates?
A: We ask staff to arrive on Wednesday, June 20, 2018 and leave on Thursday, August 2, 2018. (The campers arrive on June 24 and depart on July 29.) However, if you can only make it for (a significant) part of that time, please get in touch with us anyway.