All of a sudden the third year of Varsity Math Summer Camp has come to a close. I had one group of 15 campers this year and it represented a more diverse set of incoming AP students. This year ran super smooth thanks to a decision last year to have a simple structure to each day (also I've got a stockpile of all the random junk I need). Every day would feature an opening competition, a main (1.5 hour) activity, and a game. Each one a little different and each one designed to give the kids a nice while to get into something and interact with one another. I was not going to get them excited about coming up here for the summer and then talk at them for 3 hours, no way.

Kids attending represent are future students in all of our AP options (Stats was only 7% of the population in 2017, similar in 2016):

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Day 1

Competition of the Day: BrainQuest 7th Grade Trivia

Activity: Algorithms
A borrowed a common idea from computer science courses. Given the ingredients, write very specific instructions for building a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Kids worked with a partner and had a little while to construct their steps (ranging from 9 to 32!). Then they swapped with another pair who had to follow their instructions exactly as written.

This had some pretty funny results. From the "that's a lot of jelly" when the instructions said to squeeze for 3-5 seconds, to the group spreading peanut butter with the knife handle because the instructions never said HOW to grab the knife.

Second Activity: Drones
I have an ever growing fleet of drones of all price ranges ($40-1500) to demonstrate the general idea of quadcopters, and what spending a little more money gets you. All the kids got to fly the whole range of options. For once we didn't break anything.

Game of the Day: Spit on your Neighbor

Day 2

Competition of the Day: Make 24

Activity: Spreadsheets
A basic overview of some simple spreadsheet commands (average, sum, countif, etc) to assist with Wednesday's activity. We discussed spreadsheets as a simple database and how formulas help with problems that need to work at scale. Then they played with a demo database where they had to apply to some formulas to determine a set of information.

Second Activity of the Day: Flextangles

Game of the Day: Coup

Day 3

Competition of the Day: 4 4s, specifically, come up with as many combination of 4 4s to create 1-15.

Activity: Statistics
Almost half of the students attending this year are taking Statistics in the fall. Last year I added an intro lesson and it worked so well I had to do it again. As an introduction to variance and standard deviation, kids tear into candy bags and count the distribution of the various colors. We talk about patterns in the data and how to quantify just how far off center a given bag of candy might be by calculating the standard deviation of total candies in each bag and the total of each color in the bag. Though with only 11 bags of candy, we have to be careful about how we interpret our results.

Later on we collected heights and wingspans and did a similar analysis to figure out who represents the average person in the room, and how much the population varies.

Game of the Day: Trivia Murder Party
Despite the grim premise, this game is a huge hit with the kids because the questions are challenging, the minigames intense, and the narration really funny. One such minigame involves frantically doing simple math problems as fast as possible.

Up to 8 people play the game (much like Guesspionage) using phones or computers. With 15 campers they played as partners on a shared device.

Day 4

Competition of the Day: 5 x 5

Activity: Engineering
I do a brief talk about my time in the construction industry and show them architectural plans from a project I worked on. They have discussions about what each kind of drawing tells you about a particular room. Later, they participate in a bid/proposal exercise. I, an owner, am soliciting designs for a structure that suspends a tennis ball 11 inches above the table. Kids have two kinds of pasta ($1/each or $2/each depending on type) and three kinds of tape to choose from ($1/ft for masking, $6/ft for electrical, $10/ft for duct) as building materials. They have to track costs. After an hour, they have to present a structure that meets the requirements as the final cost for me to review.

A few projects didn't succeed at the task, and a few succeeded but didn't meet some of the requirements. We had a discussion about how in some cases requests for proposals are flexible. The owner might have one idea, but your presentation might convince them to go another route, depending on the project. The most successful (and clever) design was very expensive. A similar (though shorter) design came in at 43% of the price. What might the owner have to say about that?

Game of the Day: Jungle Adventure


A great time as always. It's very relaxing to just hang out with a group of kids with a flexible agenda. The kids enjoy the novelty of the topics and really have fun together by the end. One year I'm going to figure out how to have a longer camp.

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Still no love for poor mommy shark.

AuthorJonathan Claydon