Ph.D. Math Camp Adapts to Current Challenges

Friday, July 24, 2020
A laptop with a Zoom meeting

Like everything else these days, Ph.D. math camp is going to look a little different. Typically, the intensive camp for incoming Ph.D. students that takes place before fall semester starts is held on campus, in person. However, this year’s instructors, current Ph.D. students Aram Grigoryan and Zichang Wang, are having to adapt to the world of remote instruction. It’s Grigoryan’s second year teaching math camp, and Wang’s first. 

The pair have been putting in the work to make sure that students get as much out of remote math camp as they would on campus. “I have been acquiring skills for teaching online and using Zoom more effectively,” said Grigoryan. Both of them have attended workshops put on by the Graduate School that are aimed at remote instruction. 

They’re also adapting their tools in order to make the camp successful. “I purchased an iPad and smart pen,” said Grigoryan. “This will help me use the 'board' during the online sessions. For teaching math, it’s very useful to help students follow the arguments.” Wang agreed, and said that he will also be using a virtual pen to make notation on the slides. “In my opinion, this is better than writing on boards since it is easier and more clearly linked to the corresponding context,” he said. 

Although there are challenges that come with remote instruction, Grigoryan and Wang agree that this format will test their teaching skills and allow them more creativity. Grigoryan also hopes that with students “attending” from various locations, the new format will lend itself to flexibility and more opportunities for students to connect with instructors outside of class and during office hours. 

Wang is optimistic that remote math camp will be a success, and that students will be just as prepared as they would be if the classes were face-to-face. “Once we get used to the new format and can quickly switch the mood like we do for in-person classes, the change won’t be significant,” he said. “Remote classes may even be more beneficial to learning due to access to more teaching tools.”