All photos provided by Li

Olivia Conway, co-online editor

With her summer barely underway, junior Selena Li traveled to San Marcos to attend the six week long Honors Summer Math Camp for the second year in a row.

Li with friends from camp

“In middle school, [I heard] about their junior camp so I applied [and got accepted] to the junior camp and then in high school I applied to go back for the high school camp,” Li said. “Last year, I liked it so I decided to come back [for a second year].”

For Li, one of the best aspects of the camp is the opportunity to learn and practice math in a stress free environment.

“You do math, but you don’t feel a lot of pressure to be better than other people and there are no grades,” Li said. “You do it because you want to.”

Besides the lack of grades, Li noticed other differences between the camp and the math classes she takes at school.

“At school [you are shown] a bunch of formulas and you copy them and then you apply them over and over again on different problems. Here, you don’t just get the formulas, but you kind of have to figure the formulas out for yourself,” Li said. “You learn where everything comes from instead of just getting the formula and applying it over and over again.”  

Li at Enchanted Rock

In addition to attending classes and a nightly study group, Li was able to participate in a research project and understand the real world applications of some of the math she was learning.

“[My project] has to do with programming and artificial intelligence. You have a bunch of agents that have different tasks and you have to split up the tasks efficiently and find the best order for them to do it,” Li said.

For the research project, Li worked closely with two other members of the camp and over the course of the six weeks, she met people from all over the United States and made many new friendships.

“I like [the camp] because of the people here. Everyone is really similar and [we] have similar interests,” Li said. “It’s a nice environment.”

Li and her research group

While most of the day is devoted to math, Li and her friends also get to explore the town and take weekend trips to various places in Texas.

“On Saturdays we always go on a trip somewhere and it’s super fun. We went to Enchanted Rock, we went to the outlet mall, we went tubing in the San Marcos River, and we went to Bamberger Ranch where we had an overnight stay,”

Li said. “[And] during rec time you kind of just do whatever you want. [For example], you can walk around town with your friends and go get food.”

Li with other friends from camp

As a result of her positive experiences at camp, Li is entertaining the idea of pursuing math later on in life.  

“I still don’t know what I want to do in the future, but I’m definitely considering something with math,” Li said. “There’s no pressure to do anything, it’s just what you want to do for yourself.”