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Math summer camp as B-school prep

University Business, September 2018
EQUATE THIS—A student from Yale School of Management’s Class of 2019 works out an equation during the program’s summer math camp.
EQUATE THIS—A student from Yale School of Management’s Class of 2019 works out an equation during the program’s summer math camp.

A business mindset isn’t always accompanied by mathematical prowess. Remedial and refresher courses are common in undergraduate programs, and more post-grad business schools are identifying opportunities to prep incoming students for the rigorous coursework to come.

This is particularly important as B-schools court students without a traditional business background such as finance or economics. Wavering admissions numbers have encouraged many schools in recent years to accept the GRE in place of GMAT scores in their entrance processes.

More people take the GRE test than any other graduate or professional school admissions test, with more than half a million people taking the test annually, according to Educational Testing Service, owner of the GRE tests.

A larger pool of applicants diversifies admitted students, with B-schools attracting more minorities and females. For example, Harvard Business School’s Class of 2019 is composed of 42 percent women and 25 percent minorities. B-school grads are also entering fields less common to MBA holders, including energy import/export trading, biotech, agribusiness and technology.

Math camps emerge

The Yale School of Management invites about 20 percent of its new class to participate in a summer math camp each year. The admissions office uses undergraduate transcripts and test scores to identify candidates who may benefit from the classroom crash course.

For three days, students focus on core concepts including algebra and graphs, optimization and calculus, and probability and statistics.

“[We’re] not assuming that they will get it all during the camp, but that their minds will begin gaining familiarity with these concepts, so when they see them again, it will be easier to absorb,” says Jonathan Feinstein, who teaches the program and is a John G. Searle professor of economics and management. The camp is now over a decade old.

Math camps are springing up across the nation. The Vanderbilt University Owen Graduate School of Management, Duke’s Fuqua School of Business and University of Rochester Simon Business School are among the many B-schools offering math help for incoming students.

Students benefit from classroom learning, as they work out equations on a whiteboard with help from their peers, says Feinstein. Camaraderie is another result, as new business students bond through collaboration and problem-solving before their competitive grad stint officially begins.

After graduating from the Yale School of Management in June 2017, about 30 of the math campers from 2015 gathered informally for a farewell dinner.