The Best Math Summer Programs & Camps for High School Students

It’s easy to find STEM summer programs, and the same goes for science summer programs. Finding challenging summer programs dedicated exclusively to mathematics can be a more difficult quest!

Summer math programs allow mathematically-motivated students across the country to come together and build friendships while sharpening their math-related critical thinking and reasoning skills.

In the following list, we provide the best math summer programs and camps for high school students in the United States. The list is a mix of in-person, hybrid, and online programs from all corners of the nation. 

The great part? Most of these programs are either free or committed to meeting the demonstrated financial need of their accepted students.

PROMYS – Program in Mathematics for Young Students at Boston University (Boston, MA)

Boston University
Public domain photo by Daderot via Wikimedia Commons

Duration: 6 weeks

Eligibility: Rising high school sophomores, juniors, and seniors ages 14 and up

Nearly 80 high school students are selected annually to participate in PROMYS, one of the most competitive summer math programs in the United States. 

Each day, first-year PROMYS students participate in a morning Number Theory lecture and receive a challenging problem set – scheduled class time takes up about 1 ½ to 3 ½ hours each day.

The problem sets are designed to inspire creative experimentation and critical thinking on the participant’s part. 

Solving the problems will require them to recognize mathematical patterns, make predictions, and use mathematical proofs to defend their solutions.

Outside of morning classes, first-year participants have flexibility with their time. Some students collaborate in laboratory-based projects, while others attend higher-level seminars. 

Returning students focus more exclusively on topics in the advanced seminars, such as polynomial countability, number-theoretic cryptography, or Bernoulli polynomials.

At the program’s conclusion, all students present their mathematical research to the PROMYS community – many have also published their research!

The Ross Program at Ohio State (Columbus, OH & Terre Haute, IN)

Ohio State University
Minh Nguyen, University Hall, Ohio State University, CC BY-SA 4.0

Duration: Two 6-week sessions available at different locations

Eligibility: Rising first-year college students ages 15-18

Another competitive summer math program, Ross accepts 20% of applicants each year to fill 60 positions at each of their locations. 

Acceptance is partly based on an applicant’s performance on the problem sets featured in the application.

First inspired by the Sputnik launch and burst of interest in STEM education, Ross recognizes that today’s high school and college-age students are the ones who will create the next round of life-changing innovations. 

Ross’s primary goal is to provide an engaging venue for pre-college to explore mathematics.

Students attend lectures for five hours each week and spend three hours each week solving problems during seminars. 

Most of their activity is focused on problem-solving and presenting impenetrable proofs of their arguments.

What sets Ross apart from similar programs is that they appear to focus more on depth versus breadth – program participants choose one particular subject (like Euclid’s Algorithm or the geometry of numbers) to study at length.

HCSSiM – Hampshire College Summer Studies in Mathematics (Amherst, MA)

Hampshire College
photographer contracted by Hampshire College, Amherst, Massachusetts, Hampshire College, Harold F Johnson Library, CC BY-SA 3.0

Duration: 6 weeks

Eligibility: Rising high school juniors and seniors

HCSSiM accepts between 40 and 50 students to their program each year. For the initial three weeks, the students are divided into faculty-led workshops that meet for four hours each morning on Mondays through Fridays and two hours each Saturday morning. 

Problem sessions also take place in the evening, while afternoons are allotted for free time and optional field trips, social activities, or study groups. 

Topics differ from year to year, but what remains the same is the amount of mathematical ground covered. 

The program boasts that the material they expose students to is equivalent to that of a combinatorics/graph theory course and half of an algebra course, and that’s just within the first three weeks.

After the first three weeks, students choose to participate in a maxi-course and two mini-courses based on their inclinations. 

Maxi courses meet for 2 ½ hours daily, six mornings each week, while mini-courses are 1 ½ hours in duration and meet daily.

An example of an interesting maxi course can be found in Iteration, Fractals, Chaos, Iteration, Fractals, Chaos, where students familiarize themselves with the unconventional aspects of patterns and fractals. 

Participants might opt for classes focusing on hyperplane arrangements, polyhedra, and polytopes, or topological surfaces.

MathILy at Bryn Mawr College (Bryn Mawr, PA)

Bryn Mawr College
Firespeaker, Bryn Mawr College Campus Center, CC BY-SA 4.0

Duration: 5 weeks

Eligibility: High school students

MathILy guarantees its participants that one of the best parts of its program is meeting thinkers like them…students who think math is fun and enjoy how math allows them to be more creative. 

While MathILy is still highly competitive – accepting 45 students annually – it also values the importance of the social bonds that participants may form in their time outside of problem-solving.

That being said, there is a lot of time spent doing math! Seven hours per day (broken-up), six days per week, to be exact. 

A Ph.D. lead teacher and two graduate student assistant teachers lead the participants through a mathematical odyssey!

MathILy’s schedule breaks into a 2-1-2 format. In the first two weeks, students hone a base foundation of mathematical skills in areas like affine geometry and theoretical linear algebra. 

In the third week, students participate in a range of short classes that are more narrow in their focus.

The last two weeks afford time for participants to delve deeper into a particular area of study – usually, they are encountering material they would never encounter in their high school or collegiate curriculum. 

During the third “week of chaos,” short courses might cover topics like knot theory, Markov chain modeling, or ciphers.

MOP – The Mathematical Olympiad Program (Pittsburgh, PA)

Duration: 3 weeks

Eligibility: No age restrictions

The MOP was established to prepare high school students for intense math olympiad competitions such as the International Mathematical Olympiad – members of the IMO team are selected from camps like the MOP. 

Only those who finish exceptionally strong (top thirty freshmen and sophomores)  at the United States of America Mathematical Olympiad (USAMO) receive an invitation to this free program.

There are three MOPS that divide students into categories: black, blue, and red. Black MOPs are made up of the USAMO winners, most of whom will serve on the IMO team. 

The Blue MOP consists of students who likely completed their junior or sophomore year of high school. Red MOPs are ninth-grade students. Oftentimes, members will “switch MOPs” in order to approach a topic at a different level.

Every several days, a four-hour test with four questions is administered during the afternoon lecture time. Students working in teams of five will receive their feedback within three days.

All Girls/All Math Cryptography Camp at the University of Nebraska (Lincoln, NE)

Duration: 1 week

Eligibility: Rising high school sophomores, juniors, and seniors

The University of Nebraska at Lincoln seeks to inspire and steward young women into mathematical careers – particularly those who are most underrepresented in STEM jobs. 

AGAM connects high school students with mathematically-minded role models who can share inside information about what it is like to work in a math-related field.

During Cryptography Camp, students learn how to code and practice it within unique contexts alongside acclaimed professors and knowledgeable graduate students. 

A typical online day goes from 9 AM to 4 PM, including networking activities or guest panels in the afternoons.

Consistently rated as one of the best summer experiences for teens in the United States, AGAM is an excellent option for young women seeking a challenge and camaraderie.

AwesomeMath (Austin, TX & other locations)

Duration: Three 3-week sessions available

Eligibility: Middle and high school students

AwesomeMath is currently an online program for mathematically gifted students worldwide. 

Many participants are hoping to reach the USAMO level, and AwesomeMath provides an opportunity to hone specific skills.

Students choose which classes they’d like to enroll in and how many courses they would like to take each session. 

Classes meet online Monday through Friday for three straight weeks – first through a 90-minute lecture and then followed by a one-hour problem-solving group session.

An example of one intriguing course offering is Combinatorial Arguments – the course introduces mathematical proof methods such as recursion, bijections/mappings, and the Pigeonhole Principle. 

Students can access help from professors during office hour sessions held twice a week. They will submit grades for assessments on the first two Saturdays of each three-week session. Homework assignments are also graded on a timely basis.

Summer Academy for Math and Science at Carnegie Mellon University (Pittsburgh, PA)

Carnegie Mellon University
Dllu, Carnegie Mellon Hamerschlag Hall and Scott Hall, CC BY-SA 4.0

Duration: 4 weeks

Eligibility: Rising high school seniors

SAMS seeks to grant access to STEM fields to students living in underrepresented communities. Students work with their peers and professors on hands-on projects over two “parts.” 

In Part I, which is online, students refine skills needed for participation in future events. 

In Part II, students move into the residence halls to commence in-person instruction via the Pre-College Program at Carnegie Mellon.

At the core of SAMS is a group project that a faculty member or graduate student advises. Social relationships are strengthened through diversity and inclusion workshops, group tutoring, academic coaching sessions, and other activities.

A standout fact about SAMS is that it offers workshops to participants’ families, offering a wealth of information about how to support their child in the college search and eventual adjustment.

The end of the program is celebrated with a Symposium of student projects and a Closing Award Ceremony.

IDEA MATH (Plano/Frisco, TX & multiple locations)

Duration: Two 3-week sessions available 

Eligibility: Any students in grades 4-12

In the online IDEA MATH summer program, students spend approximately four hours online each day in groups of 6 to 16. 

Emphasis is placed on the importance of the learning process, as well as positive attitudes and behaviors that are conducive to greater learning.

Classes are taught seminar-style, meaning that students decide the direction, pace, and scope of the discussion. Students are encouraged to pose higher-order questions and respond thoughtfully to their peers’ commentary.

Many students who participate in IDEA MATH go on to succeed in major mathematical competitions. 

IDEA MATH offers five different series, and the best offerings for high school-aged students seem to be Contest Edge and Math Olympiad.

SUMaC – The Stanford University Math Camp (Stanford, CA)

Duration: Two 3-week sessions available

Eligibility: Rising high school juniors and seniors

Only a few rising high school juniors and seniors are invited to participate in SUMaC, an online mathematical immersion designed to challenge students and foster friendship. 

Courses devoted entirely to mathematics average 16 participants in an online cohort.

Students meet for two hours daily, Monday through Friday, for live, synchronous discussion and problem-solving sessions. Guest lecturers make frequent appearances.

Two program offerings house unique topics. Program I is Abstract Algebra and Number Theory, while Program II is Algebraic Topology.

Program I presents problems such as the limitations of straight-edge constructions, analyzing structural symmetry, and error-correcting codes. 

Mathematical concepts required to approach these topics derive from abstract algebra and number theory, which derives from ancient ways of employing mathematics.

Program II focuses on more current ways of “doing” math. Topology studies involve analyzing shapes that remain undisturbed by deformations.

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