The first weekend camp was organized by Lajos Pósa in 1988. Since then camps are organized continuously. Originally there wasn’t a fixed location and the camps took place all over the country. For a long time however, all camps have been taking place in the Collage of the Primary School at Tapolcsányi utca.
The children of the camps
Although we try to assign children of the same age in a group, students of consecutive years occasionally share a group.
Students usually join a group in 7th grade (age 12-13.) A part of the group is assembled from the participants of the MaMuT camp held during the summer after 6th grade. However it is possible to join a group without having participated in MaMuT. Before launching a group we try to assess the national landscape in terms of mathematical talents by organizing small-scale recruiting events at various locations. We also communicate with a lot of teachers among whom there luckily always are some who bring clever children to our attention.
The groups are regularly extended later on, since not everyone is able to assess their talents in 7th grade. The reverse, erosion is also present in terms of participants, usually caused by a shift in interest from mathematics and deciding not to invest as much energy as before. The number of participants usually starts between 25 and 35. Lately we always try to launch two groups annually, thus the number of students in a year is around 60.
A group usually takes part in about 10 to 13 weekend camps with 2 occasionally 3 every year. For the most part, the camps take place from Friday afternoon, to Sunday afternoon, with some extraordinarily long ones in school breaks, which we try to arrange to be 3-4 days long.
The children in the camps spend their time thinking in small groups of 1 to 4 people.
A singleton group is unusual but permitted, whereas 4-person groups are prohibited by some camp leaders. Under collective thinking, we do not mean the division of labor in terms of problems so that once solved a person can share the solution with others. It is something completely different. Since what we try to achieve is that each student can solve as many problems as possible on their own, we do not condone students sharing a solution to a problem which isn’t solved by everyone in the group at all. On the other hand, therefore the purpose of the groups begs the question. In our vision, public discussion, brainstorming within a group should take place when no one in the group has yielded a solution to a particular problem in quite some time. Sharing knowledge about a topic, what comes to mind in relation to a problem, which might even result in a perfect solution.
The work done by the groups is supervised via regular visits by the camp leader or the helpers, during which groups can summarize their progress – which problems they have solved, the ones they need help with or seem too difficult. Only the problems to which the solution is known or believed to be known to the whole group are discussed. The problems which were solved by only part of the group are also discussed, with great care not to let the others hear the solution.
It is important for the camp leader to be up to date with the progress of each group, since then they can adjust the speed and difficulty of the camp. Naturally it is no wonder that there are discrepancies from the originally set plan of the weekend according to the needs and abilities of the students.
The typical itinerary of a weekend camp
The camps usually take place from Friday, 4:30 pm to Sunday 2 pm. Very intense mental activity is characteristic of the camps, amounting to around 14 hours of total time purely spent on mathematics (counting in 60 minute hours.) This might seem a lot, which it is. However, since the group assembles only twice, maybe three times a year, the short time available has to be put to full use, hence the camp program being so intense.
Academic activity usually starts at 5 pm on Friday with the discussion of some of the assigned homework problems, followed by group thinking session with new problems. Friday evenings are usually spent playing games together after dinner. The camp offers a vast repertoire of intellectual games (e.g. Settlers of Catan, Kuhhandel, Taj Mahal, Adel verpfilchtet, Dominion, Dixit, St. Petersbourg, tandem chess etc.), which is available to anyone who doesn’t wish to partake in the common games.
The program on Saturday starts at 9 am and lasts until 1 pm with usually a 30 minute break in between. The discussion of remaining homework, of the problems from Friday and the new ones are the items on the “menu.” After the Saturday morning program follows a longer, 3 hour break. Saturday afternoon’s program usually starts with the discussion of problems, followed by a “hunt for chocolate” competition – a big hit among the children. The competition does induce a minimal amount of competitiveness, although it is never granted any explicit importance. The contest consists of 5 problems for which the students have at least 2 and a half hours to solve. Sometimes there are groups which finish the assigned problems before deadline, to which we always have a follow-up question up our sleeves as an answer which presumably keeps even the most clever students busy. At the end of the competition everyone receives a chocolate prize, with a partition into two groups – “well-played” and “extremely well-played.”
We try to start Sunday’s program at 9 am as well. However, in case of excessive fatigue, the beginning might be postponed. During the morning the program proceeds with the inclusion of a 30 minute break until 2 pm.
In between camps
The members of the groups are also kept occupied in between camps. After each camp the participants receive a document containing a thematically ordered list of all problems which they need to know the solution to for the next camp. The revision of this summary, i.e. said document, is crucial task. Since the following camp builds upon the previous ones, everyone has to know the solution to these problems instantly. It is also important for the students to know the connections between different problems, which are also highlighted in the document. The section “Important concepts” is of paramount importance as it is a collection of all the ways of thinking which are highlighted during the camps, many of which do not even appear in the course of a conventional school curriculum.
In between two camps a number of homework problems are assigned, usually around 10-12, some of which are optional. The homework regularly contains extremely difficult problems as well. Lately, homework is to be completed in writing, i.e. the students have to send the solutions via email.
The camps are set in the College of the Tapolcsányi Primary School. The 6-8 bunk-bedded dormitories also often serve as the work-space for the small groups. One of the dormitories contains a chalkboard, where we hold our general discussions together. This is the grand study hall, an important setting of camp life.
During the thinking sessions, the usually 8-10 small groups all occupy different rooms so as not to disturb one another. The “habitats” are the dormitories, the lounges, the study halls and the cantina.
There are no prepared meals in the camps since the building doesn’t offer such a service. This came as a surprise for the parents at first, although, based on many years of experience, this is not the cause for inconvenience. With the help of 3 refrigerators, 3 microwave owens and a lofty cantina, the issue of breakfast, lunch and dinner is resolved with ease.
Participation is completely free for the children.
The institution (College of the Tapolcsányi Primary School,) or to be more precise its maintainer currently charges 2115 HUF per night per person and an additional tourist tax of 350 HUF per night for residents over the age of 18.
Alas, the maintainer keeps the full amount of this fee. Thus, our hosts don’t receive any compensation for having to put up with our camps. This institution houses terribly underprivileged children, and the college’s financial means are also rather limited. We find it important to lighten their burden, by giving money to assets, such as summer, winter camps, books, extra-curricular courses etc.
We wish to assign 1000 HUF per child per night for this cause.
In total, the sum donated after one child after a two-night weekend stay (including the voluntary donation) amounts to: 4230 + 2000 = 6230 HUF. (With an additional 700 HUF, if the participant passed 18 years of age.)
In case of 3 nights: 6345 + 3000 = 9345 HUF. (With an additional 1050 HUF, if the participant passed 18 years of age.)
Whoever has the desire and means to support the activity of the Foundation can do so by a sum transferred to the following account. Account number: 11600006-00000000-67814154 (account owner: A Gondolkodás Öröme Alapítvány.) It is also possible to make an online donation via this platform.
It is imperative to stress that there is absolutely no relation between the participation in the camps and the existence or amount of a donation. We kindly ask you to only support us if this doesn’t imply a financial strain and you believe it is for a good cause.