One Time ... At Math Camp

“One time…in Math Camp!” Of course, we couldn’t help steal from American Pie to share our experiences in the Stanford GSB QPEP (Quantitative Pre-Enrollment Program, lovingly called Math Camp). Math Camp was a surprisingly memorable week that took place 4 days before most other first-year GSBers even arrived to campus.

“And what exactly are we going to ever use this for?” With that, entrepreneur Brooks Preston, MBA1, began the theme of Math Camp, learning with purpose. As Math Camp began on Tuesday September 4th, Room 180 was filled with the energy of curiosity and slight fear as 72 Math Campers filed into it. Investment bankers and video game designers, teachers and management consultants, fashion buyers and navy captains alike were all “campers” seeking one goal: to shed the “poet” title and learn with a purpose. And so, those who had just left school, and those who felt like Rodney Dangerfield and were going back to school after more than ten years, sat down and prepared to learn about algebra, linear equations, isoprofit lines, derivatives, probability, decision trees, and bent nickels.

As Finance Professor Paul Pfleiderer opened his mouth, worry and concern dissipated for the math campers and according to Math Camper Vilma Duran, MBA1, he “made what could have been a daunting experience quite pleasurable”. One of our earliest math camp lessons was that all questions are welcome, and most of them will garner a laugh. Regardless of the laughter, there was always at least one other person among the 72 who wanted to know the answer. After brave soul and ex-teacher Eric Wells, MBA1, hit out with “so what exactly is that thing you’ve been drawing on the board?” ex-banker Allison Thoreson, MBA1, stepped out and requested what we all wanted, “Could you explain what a derivative is, in, like words?” Math Campers knew that we were with like minds.

After the first, each Math Camper had a personal moment where he or she realized that they weren’t the only confused one. So questions allowed for more questions, finally leading Professor Pfleiderer to respond to our philosophical underpinnings of math with the practical and inevitable answer to such queries, “I could prove it to you, but just write down the rule because I’m the professor and I said so.” Math Campers welcomed such responses to our questions, as we were still readjusting to the college classroom. Readjusting to sitting in a classroom from 9am-12:30pm listening to a professor talk proved hard for many of us, leading Jennifer Hiltunen, MBA1, to include among her highlights of Math Camp Diane Savage’s daily “coffee break” reminders to Professor Pfleiderer.

So, for four days from 9am-12:30pm, participants in Math Camp listened to and questioned Professor Paul Pfleiderer on a range of topics and questions from, “Which door should you choose if you are on Let’s Make a Deal?” to “Why shouldn’t you play the lottery?” to “How many trucks do you need in a plant to maximize profit?” After nearly four hours of lecture, zombie like Math Campers headed to lunch together, and regrouped an hour later to work on problem sets. The problem sets proved, well, problematic. Still, Math Campers prided themselves in working on teams to solve whatever problems Professor Pfleiderer had sent our way. As ex-teacher and Yale alumna Monisha Perkash, MBA1, expressed, “The study groups were helpful. It was the first time I'd experienced working in a group together academically and actually tackling problems together. I found that I really enjoy learning that way.”

We returned from our problem sets after a few hours in Jackson Library (or outside for those of us who still weren’t ready to let go of our hours under the sun) to meet with a teaching assistant who was very honest with us, turning our Math Camp experience into a Math Boot Camp. “Is there another way to do this problem?” a Math Camper might ask. “There is, but this is the right one!” replied our TA. And our day was complete, having been at Math Camp from 9am-4pm.

As if the long days we experienced at the hands of Math Camp weren’t painful enough, we were occasionally abused, if only verbally, by more quantitatively adept classmates. Math Camper Jonathan Strike, MBA1, invited math genius Amy Skeeters-Behrens, MBA1, to the QPEP picnic. Not realizing he was a camper, she jokingly inquired if they had to act “quantitatively inept” at the picnic. Strike was on the ground laughing, but Amy was horrified of the impression she may have made on her new classmates.

Many of our non-Math Camp classmates may wonder, “So, what did you get for $250?” During our four-day math boot camp, we were barraged with natural and unnatural logs, probabilities, derivatives, limits, and bent nickels. We were reminded (and introduced for others), what these concepts were and how to put them to use here at the GSB. We got to know Professor Pfleiderer, a very good guy and great professor. And, we made 72 great friends--the math camp gang. Seems like a bargain really.

And for those Math Campers who are wondering about the fate of the bent nickel, our lesson in probability, Professor Pfleiderer is proud to announce that he was able to finally use it to purchase a bagel. Now tell us, what are the odds of that?

By Shani Jackson, MBA1, and Carl Palmer, MBA1

Term:

Other Articles

To the class of 2009, and all faculty and staff, welcome back. To the class of 2010, welcome to our community; we look forward to meeting you all. Many of us already know that this is the start of yet another phenomenal experience. In our Palo Alto microclimate, days are longer and fuller (and not just because we sleep less!).

After a year-and-a-half hiatus, The Reporter has once again opened its cyberdoors for business. We encourage you to step right in and have a seat – we would like to welcome you to The Virtual Reporter. Our address is www.virtualreporter.org.

To the Class of 2010:

We wanted to extend to you a heart-felt welcome to the Stanford Graduate School of Business. You are among an extraordinary group of people who have achieved incredible feats in their professional and personal lives. You have demonstrated that you could balance assertiveness with compassion and that you would not allow professional ambition to overshadow social responsiveness. Check also Help for students tuition fee and Building Career.

Ten years ago, Peter Dumanian, MBA ’92, and a few of his GSB classmates envisioned the East Palo Alto Chapter of the “I Have a Dream” (IHAD) program, modeled after a famous program founded a decade earlier in East Harlem. Within a year and a half, a core group of 20 GSB students raised $450,000 from classmates, alumni, and corporate donors, and adopted a class of 58 3rd and 4th grade “Dreamers” from Flood elementary school. The program was a phenomenal success, as class after class of GSB students tutored and mentored the Dreamers through high school.

OK. For those of you who decided to leave the Bay Area for your lofty summer jobs in New York and abroad, you have truly missed a fun time. That’s right. We have taken Summer FOAM to a whole new level. Alternating every other week between San Francisco and Silicon Valley, we have covered major ground and discovered some of the city’s best-kept secrets. Let me give you a taste of our travels.

“One time…in Math Camp!” Of course, we couldn’t help steal from American Pie to share our experiences in the Stanford GSB QPEP (Quantitative Pre-Enrollment Program, lovingly called Math Camp). Math Camp was a surprisingly memorable week that took place 4 days before most other first-year GSBers even arrived to campus.

Jen: The email arrived on a Saturday in early August. It contained the syllabus and reading list for my pre-term seminar with Dean Joss, “Issues on Leadership.” Summer wasn’t even over yet... a reading list?! What did I get myself into?

Fortunately, the books weren’t too academic. In fact, they were almost enjoyable. Shackleton’s Way taught leadership lessons as shown by an Antarctic explorer who was stranded on an iceberg in 1912 and kept his 28 men alive for 2 years. Leadership Pipeline examined different styles of leadership and the skills and values needed for each.

When 120 GSB students departed from Schwab to participate in their Outdoor Adventure Whitewater Rafting trip, many of them envisioned scenes from the movie The River Wild. However, due to a variety of circumstances, the search for whitewater rapids in Northern California was much more like Mission Impossible.

As the first-year students pile onto campus full of verve and optimism, trying to find their ways between S182 and S171, courageously ordering complex sandwiches and burritos in Arbuckle, the second-years ooze back to the GSB like an unsuccessfully eradicated slime mold, grimly noting the enthusiasm with which their junior colleagues snap up copies of Teamwork: A Guide for Suckers.

On September 10th, tomorrow seemed like just another day in the life of a first year GSB student. My biggest concerns about that Tuesday were standard orientation fare: Will I have a good hair day for that dreaded facebook picture? Who's going to help me configure my computer to the Schwab network? How on earth am I going to wake up for the way-too-early Excel review without an alarm clock?

My research suggests that when a system is threatened, proponents of that system tend to respond defensively, almost instinctively, to bolster support for the central tenets of the system. In part, this is what has happened in the case of last week’s terrorist attacks: some Islamic fundamentalists are fighting a holy war against the U.S. allegedly to defend the existence and purity of their system against what they perceive to be our military, economic, and cultural imperialism. Of course, this does not justify the attacks (nothing could), though it may help to explain it.

Tata Consultancy Services – eat your heart out. We’re on a GMIX at BaliCamp! While this is plenty of information to set the stage for second years, the first years will undoubtedly benefit from some additional background. GMIX, which stands for Global Management Immersion eXperience, is a four-week internship that SBS students can elect to take during the summer between their first and second years (see http://www-gsb.stanford.edu/gmp/opportunities/gmix.htm for more information). For additional info on Tata, you’ll have to wait and see…