Toggle Accessibility Tools

Girls Topology Camp

Instructor: Dr. Kristen Hendricks and Ms. Marian Murembya

Intended for: Grades 6-8

Dates: June 18th-22nd, 9 am - noon

We know the surface of the planet is a sphere, or close to it. But while you're walking around in your day-to-day life, you almost always treat it as a flat plane, like the top of a table. You can't actually tell that you aren't standing on a flat surface unless you can see a long distance, or something else unusual is going on -- for example, you might have left the earth on a rocketship, and be able to see its shape from outer space.

You can imagine a world where everyone lived on the surface of a huge donut, big enough that if you were standing on it somewhere it would just look like a flat plane to you. (This doesn't actually work because of how gravity works, but in math we often ignore things like that so we can think about a question we're interested in.) You wouldn't be able to tell the difference between that world and this one just from where you were standing. But we can think about what the differences between those two planets would be. This is really the question of what kinds of two-dimensional shapes there are, and what makes them different, which we'll study.

Similarly to how you're always walking around on the surface of the planet, you're always moving through three-dimensional universe. Like with the surface of the planet, you can't tell what the overall shape of the universe is just by looking -- and while you can leave the surface of the planet to look at it, you can't leave the universe to look at it, so this is an extremely hard problem. In this camp we'll also talk about various three-dimensional shapes -- possible mathematical universes, if you like -- and what they would be like.

This is a camp on topology, the study of shape. We'll talk about what it means to study shape in the topological sense and the concept of dimension, and study two- and three-dimensional shapes.

Students attending should... enjoy doing mathematics and particularly geometry, be comfortable with the usual K-5 curriculum, and be willing to think about problems rooted more in shapes than in numbers.

This camp will be co-taught by MSU Mathematician Dr. Kristen Hendricks and a local middle school math teachers.  Thanks to funding from the National Science Foundation, this camp will be offered free of charge to interested middle school girls.  Due to limited space, an application is required; selection will be based on demonstrated interest in mathematics.  Please complete the regular registration form for all camps, without payment, and we will email a few questions for your daughter to answer regarding her interest in the camp.

Department of Mathematics
Michigan State University
619 Red Cedar Road
East Lansing, MI 48824

Phone: (517) 353-0844
Fax: (517) 432-1562

College of Natural Science