Carnegie Mellon University
August 19, 2022

CMU Hosts New Math Camp for High School Girls

By Heidi Opdyke

Jocelyn Duffy
  • Associate Dean for Marketing and Communication, MCS
  • 412-268-9982

When Rachel Zhang and Meghal Gupta started competing in national math competitions, they realized there were few female competitors.

Today, both women coach the U.S. European Girls' Math Olympiad (EGMO) team, and they recently wrapped up the inaugural G2 (Girls Together) Math Program, a two-week free summer camp for high school girls hosted at Carnegie Mellon University.

"Targeting the top tier of girls doing math is extremely powerful," said Zhang, a Ph.D. student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a member of the U.S. EGMO team from 2014 to 2016.

Gupta agreed. As a high school competitor, both she and Zhang noticed there weren't many girls competing at national contests and qualifying for the U.S. International Math Olympiad team.

"One of the goals is to bring all of the highest achieving girls together so they can move up the ranks and then more girls will follow as they look up to them," said Gupta, a Ph.D. student at the University of California, Berkeley studying theoretical computer science.

Along with Sherry Gong, an assistant professor at Texas A&M, Zhang and Gupta organized a new two-week program for girls who were at least 14 and interested in learning more about the proof-based math used in Olympiad competitions.

"You can do math anywhere, but making a community is so important." — Michelle Gao
From July 24 through Aug. 6, 40 high schoolers from across the United States took classes centered around different areas of mathematics and worked to solve problems with instructors and other students. The program also included guest speakers who discussed higher math, research topics and professional development topics.
 
Michelle Gao, a rising sophomore at Montgomery Blair High School in North Potomac, Maryland, said the experience was incredible.
 
"The teachers and teaching assistants were amazing. Apart from the math, I got to experience a bit of what it was like to be a college student," Gao said. "One of the most valuable parts of the program was getting to make new friends with people with similar interests. You can do math anywhere, but making a community is so important."
 
Students were encouraged to spend downtime exploring Pittsburgh and to get to know the other participants and the G2 staff, which included Oleksandr Rudenko, who recently graduated from CMU with his Ph.D. and has coached U.S. teams in international competitions, and Olha Silina and Alec Sun, both current CMU doctoral students.
 
Katie He, a rising sophomore at Buchholz High School in Gainesville, Florida, said she made many friends and met likeminded people.
 
"What I didn't expect was how inspiring the instructors were. All of them were really talented and accomplished," He said. "I saw them as I an example of what I could be in the future."
 
There were no program costs for the participants, who also received free housing and travel stipends. The program was supported by Jane Street Capital and CMU.
 
"We wanted to host it somewhere that shared our vision," Gupta said. "We reached out to a few different schools and the response from Carnegie Mellon was extremely overwhelmingly positive."
 
Since 2015, the Mathematical Association of America's Mathematical Olympiad Summer Program has been held at CMU under the guidance of Po-Shen Loh, head coach of the U.S. International Mathematical Olympiad.
 
"The G2 Math Program is extremely unique. I'm really happy that this took place," said Loh, who provided discretionary funding to help support creating the program. "The more people involved in building programs and communities will help other people push themselves farther in math."
 
The Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in CMU's Mellon College of Science also provided funding support.
 
Michael Young, associate dean of the Mellon College of Science's (MCS's) Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, said that because the intent of the G2 program is to address underrepresentation in one of the mathematics communities, he wanted the CMU and MCS, in particular, to host it.
 
"One of my goals is to make MCS relevant in any conversation about diversity, equity and inclusion in science," Young said. "This begins with showing our commitment and hospitality to programs like G2. I'm thrilled that they gave us the opportunity and look forward to hosting them again in the future."