Counsellor FAQ

Counsellor FAQ

“I believe that the only prerequisite to be able to blend into the PROMYS community is an interest in Mathematics.” Adit Vishnu PM, Mehta Fellow to PROMYS 2016-2019

Here are some common questions and their answers.

What Role do Counsellors Play at PROMYS India?

The counsellor’s role is central to PROMYS India. Counsellors encourage, supervise, and grade the work of the students; and they organise the social activities of the programme. The counsellors are mathematical guides and, in essence, run the program (“Counsellors Rule!”), with the support, guidance and oversight of the experienced Head Counsellors and the faculty. Many of the students form close bonds with their counsellors. PROMYS India is an intense immersive experience, and the counsellors keep a protective eye on the students to ensure they are safe and happy.

Counsellors are important role models. The students witness the counsellors and adult professionals engaging actively, intensely, collaboratively, and joyfully in creative mathematical endeavours. PROMYS India will prove to participants that mathematics is a creative and collaborative enterprise, that there is a vibrant community they can choose to join, that mathematics need not be a solitary activity, and that members of the community give each other social and intellectual support. Many PROMYS alumni have told us that this exposure revolutionised their attitudes toward having a career in mathematics. 

Counsellors tell us they come to PROMYS, and return to PROMYS, for the same reasons that the students tell us they come to PROMYS and return to PROMYS: the mathematics and the people.

What Will I Learn as a Counsellor at PROMYS India?

A defining characteristic of PROMYS India is that the programme is designed for the mathematical engagement and development of the counsellors as well as the students. It is key that the very talented undergraduate mathematicians have enough variety, challenge and progression to continue to engage themselves in increasingly significant mathematical activity from one summer to the next. Counsellors are asked to supervise the work of three or four students and have time to pursue their own mathematical endeavours as well. Counsellors are invited to study mathematics independently by participating in advanced seminars, attending guest lectures, and interacting individually with the faculty. In addition, the counsellors are invited to organise minicourses, seminars, and lectures on themes of their own choosing in order to introduce students and fellow counselors to a broad variety of mathematical ideas. Activities of these kinds are especially important to the health of the PROMYS India programme and are supported to the greatest extent possible.

What is PROMYS's Pedagogical Philosophy?

It is not so much through the daily mandatory number theory lectures that PROMYS habits of mind are developed as in the extended hours every day that the first-year students work on their carefully crafted daily number theory problem sets - working on their own or collaborating with others. PROMYS faculty, counsellors, and returning students provide encouragement and feedback, inspiration, instruction, and mathematical tools; they don't provide solutions or even hints. The problem sets encourage students to design their own numerical experiments and to employ their own powers of analysis to discover mathematical patterns, formulate and test conjectures, and justify their ideas by devising their own mathematical proofs. These activities help refine the skills of conjecture, analysis, proof, and research - providing firsthand (and often first time) experience of the mechanics of real research. The learning goals of PROMYS extend considerably beyond the valuable foundation in number theory to the demonstration through firsthand experience of the rewards of delving deeply.

Often for the first time in their lives, the talented young PROMYS participants find themselves tackling mathematics that is beyond their immediate grasp; are exposed to mathematics that is beautiful and daunting; are held to exacting standards of rigour and precision; meet others with similar levels of talent and passion; and learn, not just as students, but as scientists. PROMYS is non-competitive, and students learn from one another. Many then go on to teach and mentor in the PROMYS way, by giving others the tools to think for themselves.

PROMYS aims to create an authentic experience of doing mathematics within a community of mathematicians having various levels of experience and expertise, every one of whom is actively engaged in significant mathematical activity appropriate to their individual level of expertise. In this way, first-time participants are introduced to a spectrum of individuals, from their talented, but still inexperienced, fellow first-year students, through university and graduate students, and connecting with seasoned research mathematicians.

Are First-year Undergraduates Eligible? Are Non-alumni Welcome to Apply?

Starting in 2022, when counsellor applications will be extended beyond alumni, we will consider all applications independent of year at university. We will encourage all interested undergraduates to apply; all applications will be given full consideration. 

Are the Counsellor Talks and Seminars all on Number Theory?

No! Topics are as varied as the mathematical interests of the counsellors. Click here for a list of counsellor seminar and minicourse topics at PROMYS at Boston University in 2011-2019.

What Do Counsellors Do After PROMYS?

74% of PROMYS Boston counselolr alumni who are old enough for graduate school and for whom we have up-to-date educational data (93%), have, or are working on, a doctorate. 80% of those doctorates are PhDs in Mathematics.

Just as the counsellors are role models and advisors to the students, so the research mentors, faculty, and visiting mathematicians are role models and advisors for the counselors. And these connections are often lasting since the PROMYS alumni network is very active. 

Many counsellors choose to participate in PROMYS for multiple summers. Many continue to return as visitors, guest speakers, research mentors or instructors. The programme relishes the long-term involvement of alumni. Mathematically and socially, they are PROMYS’s past, present, and future.