NMSS 2020: Student Reflections

Alice Hughes

When I told my family that I was applying for a two-week maths camp, they gave me a look and then continued on with their day. When I told my maths teacher, he laughed and called me a nerd. But that didn’t stop me applying, nor did it diminish the excitement that came with my offered place at the camp. I was keen for the opportunity to experience more than just everyday school mathematics and NMSS did not disappoint.

Skipping forward about a month after I accepted a position, the bushfires had arrived in the ACT, and it was decided for the safety of all involved in the camp that NMSS 2020 would be cancelled. Needless to say, I was disappointed but the prospects of the offered week in Melbourne kept my hopes alive. Thanks to the relentless work of our dedicated director, the flights for every student were booked within the week, and we were off.

What followed was easily the best week of my life. I knew no one else going, and as you can guess, I was quite nervous. But I needn’t have feared. Upon my arrival I was greeted by the friendly tutors who tirelessly urged us to think deeply of simple things, the experienced students who went out of their way to welcome us all and ease our nerves, our welfare officers who proceeded to keep us safe throughout the week, our lecturers who never ceased to broaden our perspective of mathematics and our directors who brought the whole event together. I was brought into a family of people who strived to make themselves better and who incorporated me into their group without a blink. I learnt not only new concepts but new ways of thinking, of interacting with people and saw a new side to a subject that I thought I new inside and out. NMSS is an experience that I will never forget and I am extremely grateful for the opportunity I was offered.

Raymond Zhao

People always say that home isn’t a place, but the people that live there. I think the same applies for my experience at NMSS. While I enjoyed living on campus and was amazed by different fields and aspects of maths that does not get covered at school, it was the people that I met and the wonderful community bonded by a love for mathematics that I experienced, that I think will stick with me forever.

The maths that we did at camp was inherently different from anything that I had experienced before, it was messy, took a lot of experimentations, and you were not always guaranteed a neat solution (or a solution at all!). I valued this experience, as it really provided insight into what mathematics is like. It is, after all, not about what the solution is, but the exploration, discovery and learning process. We covered number theory and algorithms during the camp. Number theory takes you back to the basics of numbers, one example was when we constructed the set of integers from only axioms, it was this sort of focus on fundamentals that made me understand maths more.

But it really was the people and community there that really made an impact on me. I had the valuable opportunity to meet so many like-minded people. It was always fun talking to people my age about the future, our experiences and about problems in question sets. Everyone always has unique perspectives and approaches to problems that often inspired me in some way.  I’m also very grateful for all the tutors and lectures and speakers, talking to them made me realise all the possible paths I could take with mathematics in the future.

From the daily jokes during announcements, tutorials, “assassins”, and board games, NMSS was such a supportive and inclusive community that made me feel at home from the first night. I really loved this community that is brought together by our love for maths, everyone was eager to engage in more intellectual conversations, or just messing around. I feel like it was the perfect balance of learning and fun. NMSS gave me a valuable opportunity to be able to experience what being in a mathematical community feels like. And I am simply in love with it and had an unbelievable week.

Overall, NMSS was such a great experience that truly showed me what being a mathematician is like. It introduced me to so many interesting aspects of mathematics, allowed me to form so many valuable friendships and was overall an unforgettable experience.