I had to privilege to have had, apart from the Pósa-camps, Péter Juhász lead extra-curricular courses at my school for 6 years which were very similar in spirit to the camps. The camps and the courses were both decisive experiences of my secondary school years, I always waited for them in excited anticipation. We were adventurers with ever new problems teasingly waiting for us to get a grip on them. The construction lasting several years, and the unexpected connections filled me with such beauty, I find mathematics akin to art. The long years of experiences spent together forged long-lasting friendships and acquaintances. Because of all these reasons if asked to introduce myself, I would be sure to add my Pósa-upbringing.
The camps and courses also endowed me with inspiration regarding the teaching of mathematics. In my view, it is far more important to get to like and develop a certain way of thinking than to learn specific methods when learning mathematics. The experiences from the camps fuel my belief that this is a feasible goal. It is possible to teach mathematics to most people – not only the gifted – in a way which is not the cause of constant nausea, but means the joy of thinking.
As a child, I perceived it as an exciting, playful math camp. In retrospect, I see it as a globally unique, professionally built talent management program. An important pillar of hungarian talent management.
I simply loved the Pósa camps, every time I could hardly wait for the next one. The problems were put together with great care. Everyone felt a sense of accomplishment when working on them, as we explored a topic step-by-step, usually working individually or in small groups.
The beauty of the problems lay in how no prior knowledge was needed to solve them, yet they posed a challenge and often exhibited a phenomenon previously unknown to me. I must also mention how much I liked the games we played in the evening.
The problems I encountered in the camps were truly gripping. I experienced how big an adventure it is to think about math problems.
Lajos Pósa put his math teaching method to test through us at Eötvös József Gimnázium. Starting with all topics from previously established foundations, we received a sequence of problems always having to take only one step of difficulty above the previously discussed ones. Given that most students were able to make these leaps, it was the problems themselves that taught us the topic.
He practically didn’t teach us anything. Naturally this is meant between quotation marks, not to be misunderstood. However, it was never him who pre-solved the problems for us at the board so that we may copy and learn to hate mathematics.
In completing his carefully put-together problems, it was us ourselves, who uncovered the mysteries of a given topic, we learned everything by ourselves. He asked for the proof of all theorems within the curriculum, and most of them were always solved by some of us. The most beautiful proofs, apart from being rewarded with a good mark received the honour of providing the proof to be learned for test or the finals by the whole class.
Lajos Pósa, apart from being a brilliant math teacher is also a great person. On special, festive occasions he would read us from his favourite literary works during math class and taught us wonderful games. He really did give us the joy of thinking. I regard the four years spent with him as a life-defining experience.
For me, the most important message of the Posa-camps was that Lajos took the children very seriously with regard to mathematical problems or otherwise. This was also my parents’ attitude towards me which is probably why it had such a great impact, I even try to use it in other places ever since – it was of great use to me in my teaching and I try to raise my children in the same spirit as well.
A lot of problems and programs in the camps were discussed together. One of my favourites was the “What should we do?” conferences. Being able to meet my peers with whom I could talk about mathematics or other reasonable topics, or to play board games for that matter was a really novel experience indeed.
The camps had a key role in me becoming a mathematician and I have considered it a very good decision ever since. I had such a good time in the camps that already the week after, I would be looking forward to the next occasion. Last but not least, I am grateful for the many important acquaintances, relations that were made possible due to the camps.
The camp was an opportunity to spend time with people who were similar to me, yet different enough so that we could develop just by working together. To me it meant the company, the intellectual challenges, as well as playing games, Catan and maffia.
The Pósa camps meant a lot to me. They introduced me to the most beautiful parts of mathematics. The way of thinking I acquired there benefits me in my engineering career as well. I wish everyone had a chance to experience the Pósa way of mathematics education.
The carefully prepared, creative, thought-provoking, and at the same time exciting problems of the Pósa camps established problem-solving skills that I use regularly ever since, both in mathematics and in computer science. Lajos’s methodology and the enormous amount of care, through which every group and every participant gets introduced to problems at the right pace, develops individual thinking and problem-solving skills at levels that remain far beyond feasible using a traditional secondary school educational perspective.
The camps were always spent in good mood, and beside educational purposes, they also served as a community building and strengthening platform. I regard them as an essential memory of my high school years.
For me, the most astounding discovery came years after the camps, when I realized how important and long-lasting the things I got from the camps are: a unique perspective of mathematics, a clearer self-reflecting way of thinking as well as human qualities. I barely realized these as a camp-goer and only come to appreciate now.
This progress holds to this day even as a helper and later as a camp leader.
It is difficult to pinpoint the most important thing I got from the Lajos-type camps: For me the active search for clandestine connections below the surface, the incessant awe at the splendor of mathematics, and the ability to construct rigorous, well-grounded arguments all originate from here.
Still, perhaps the most important gift is the perspective that any and all problems, be it in whatever part of life, long to be solved. As elegantly as possible.
My way of thinking evolved immensely in the camp. I remember the games and problems to this very day. Lajos Pósa was always extremely kind and thoughtful with us. He always gave personal attention to all the children. To this day, I am proud to talk about my camp experiences, and I have a plethora of fond memories.
I only have great memories of the camps… the interesting problems, exciting discussions, spectacular connections between seemingly unrelated things, wonderful company, cheerful environment, games, work and relaxation. I acquired a vast array of knowledge which would not have been possible except much later with much more effort. Thanks to the camps, I have a more solid foundation for my future castle of academic knowledge.
One day I hope to be back in Tapolcsányi utca assisting the work of the camp leaders.