Hi everyone,

This is my first time posting so I hope I’m doing it right! Thanks in advance for any advice.

My son, a junior, found his passion very early in life— pure math. All he wants is to study math— he’s drawn to proofs, the abstract, the big picture (but of course can do the computational stuff too). Not that drawn to contests— he loves math for its beauty, and doesn’t really enjoy competition. He reads math papers and proofs for pleasure, just on his own.

We’re looking for a college where he can study math to his heart’s content, but where the “vibe” is more cooperative or laid-back, and where the emphasis is on theoretical math, rather than computational or applied math. Right now he especially loves number theory.

His background:

His high school did not allow any sort of math acceleration, so after his sophomore year, on the advice of his counselor, he left the math department behind. He studied calculus on his own and scored a 5 on the the AP Calc BC exam. We live near UC Berkeley, so he’s taken multivariable calculus and advanced algebra there— earned A+ in both courses. This semester he’s taking complex analysis. He took AA without having the prerequisites but seems to have figured it out as he went along; hopefully that will hold for complex analysis too.

His stats: all of his scheduled testing so far has been canceled, due to Covid, so we don’t have much to post. He took the PSAT as a sophomore and scored 1390, but that was without any preparation, so I’m pretty sure he could bring that up.

He has a 4.0 (his high school doesn’t do weighting); he took AP chemistry last year (scored a 5), and is taking AP computer science, AP US History, and AP English, and AP bio this year. He plays piano, does speedcubing and chess. No sports; no “leadership” in EC. He’s shy, awkward, and sweet.

So far in his search, he’s been drawn to Oxford, because he’d get to study *only math*, and he likes the sound of the tutoring system. Also UC Berkeley, because he already knows the department— but I’d love him to be in a less anonymous space. I just don’t know how happy he’d be in a highly competitive or high-pressure environment, which so many good math colleges seem to have. But he’s been fine at Berkeley so far, so maybe that’s just a mom issue. Socially, he’s shy— he has one friend at the moment— so a smaller college seems like a good match, but I’ve also read on these forums that some of the small colleges might run out of math for him to take if he’s already taken as much as he has (he plans to take another 3 classes at UCB before graduating high school.)

Any insights are much appreciated!