For many middle-schoolers, the school year is long enough. When summer vacation rolls around, the idea of heading back to a classroom for a week-long math lesson is nearly unthinkable.
But for the ten students enrolled in Brookdale’s Mathematics Puzzles Plus! summer camp, the past week has been one of the highlights of the summer.
“It’s so much fun,” said eight-year-old Ambroise De Quillacq, of Fair Haven. “It’s not like math class, because in class you only do one thing. But here there’s so much playtime. You learn math for a little while, but then you have games and computer time and even recess. I really like it.”
The camp, run from Aug. 14 to Aug. 18 on the Lincroft campus, provided students with a wide range of math-themed activities and problem-solving challenges, from puzzles and computer games to live-action “Jeopardy” and geometric construction projects.
On Aug. 16, students spent the morning learning about engineering and the six types of simple machines: the wheel and axle; the inclined plane; the wedge; the lever; the pulley; and the screw. Campers then used those concepts to build their own working machines out of K’NEX, a toy building material.
Christian Volk and Nayan Patel, both of Rumson, teamed up to build a working crane, capable of lifting and depositing large blocks with the turn of a crank.
“It’s a lot of fun,” said Volk. “We both attended the camp last year, and came back again this year.”
Mathematics Puzzles Plus! has been running annually since 2014, when assistant mathematics professors Sally Mulvey and Gabriella Sprague decided to create a summer camp that would engage young students and show them the “fun side” of mathematics.
The camp has since grown, attracting a number of returning campers who don’t seem to mind spending part of their summer in a classroom setting, Sprague said.
“At the beginning, students are a little bit scared because they expect us to give them math worksheets, and after the first day they get a bit more relaxed,” said Sprague, who taught this year’s camp alongside math instructor Stephen Hiamang. “It’s a very entertaining camp. Whether they are in the computer lab or building shapes out of different materials, they always have something to do.
“Our goal is simple,” said Sprague. “We think that we should start kids with math at an early age. We want to catch them early and develop their love for math, so later on they are not scared or afraid of it. We try to show them the practical applications of mathematics, and we think that makes a big difference.”
Following the success of the camp, Mulvey and Sprague have been invited to present on their experiences at the Mathematical Association of Two Year Colleges annual conference in San Diego this November.
Mathematics Puzzles Plus! is one of more than 80 week-long summer camps offered at Brookdale each summer, providing hundreds of local students with engaging, educational experiences in a variety of subjects. This year’s Brookdale campers were able to fly drones, study video game animation, experience virtual reality, practice business or the fine arts, learn how to build a mobile application or even participate in a mock legal trial, said Brookdale Lifelong Learning director Linda Martin.
“Summer camps are a long tradition at Brookdale. They have been offered here for over 30 years,” said Martin, adding that past Brookdale campers include “The Big Bang” actress Melissa Rauch and noted author Kristopher Jansma.
“Over the years, our academic camps have become more and more specialized, offering children the chance to explore fields like science, humanities and digital arts in the most adventurous, hands-on and entertaining ways. We offer unique learning experiences, disguised as fun.”
To learn more about Brookdale’s Summer Camps, click here.
Check out more photos from the Mathematics Puzzles Plus! camp here.