September 04, 2007 Students stun academics at mathematics summer camp The quality of work produced by the 25 high school students participating in the inaugural World ORT maths summer camp at the Technion was so high that academics could not choose a single recipient of the World ORT-Technion Excellence Prize in Mathematics. Most of the students were top level, said Professor Jack Sonn, who chaired the special committee that evaluated the teenagers performance. They were so good that we couldnt narrow them down to a top two or three. With a great amount of agonising we were able to draw up a list of eight students who we felt were deserving of the prize, although we were not completely comfortable even with that. In the end the World ORT-Technion Excellence Prize in Mathematics, funded by the UK-based Kennedy Leigh Charitable Trust and Joseph Trust, was shared by the eight short-listed students. The talented students had spent two weeks at the world-renowned Technion Israel Institute of Technology tackling number theory, a field of study that Professor Sonn and his colleagues Associate Professor Moshe Baruch and Dr Yossi Cohen at the Faculty of Mathematics considered more accessible for them. It was the first number theory summer camp every to have been held in Israel and was modelled on one which has been held at Ohio State University for 40 years. The students were divided into small groups, each under the supervision of a graduate student, and were presented with carefully designed problems to solve in a non-competitive environment. With impressive enthusiasm, the students devoted themselves morning, noon and night to the challenge. What they did was equivalent to half a university course in number theory, Professor Sonn said. They coped extremely well. I had a very good feeling seeing how excited the kids were about doing number theory. These kids are unusual in their own environment because they are very talented at maths. This summer camp gives them an opportunity to find others who are similarly talented. They realise they arent freaks and make good friendships. It was a wonderful experience for them and Im excited by the prospect of doing it again perhaps focusing on combinatorics. The eight students who shared the World ORT-Technion Excellence Prize in Mathematics. The World ORT-Technion Excellence Prize in Mathematics is open to all high school students in Israel. Students including Gilad and Shai Bar, Israels first twins born to a surrogate mother were recommended by their schools and then interviewed by Dr Cohen for final selection. But it was not all work and no play, Dr Cohen said. They also went swimming, took trips, watched movies and went hiking. Were please that, aside from the studies, a real social experience was created and we hope to see them at the Technion in future years, he said. The summer camp has been so successful that Professor Sonn said there were plans to launch a monthly follow-up programme with participants. We may even include other kids who could prove to be future contenders for the Excellence Prize, Professor Sonn said. And as the summer camp becomes established we would like to use former participants as group counsellors rather than graduate students. Founded in 1924, the Technion is Israels oldest university and is now at the forefront of the global network of science and technology teaching and research. More than two-thirds of the founders and managers of Israels high-tech industries are Technion graduates. World ORT is the worlds largest Jewish education and vocational training non-government organisation and has benefited more than 3 million people Jewish and non-Jewish in 100 countries since its foundation in 1880.