Maths Competitions for Middle and High School Students in the US

This blog takes a look at the leading mathematics competitions across the US

Read on to know the biggest math competitions that US school students can participate in…

Math Competition for High and Middle School Students in the US

May 21, 2019    By Team YoungWonks *

Which are the top math competitions in the US? This blog takes a close look at them. Mathematics competitions are basically competitive events where participants appear for a math test. These tests may have multiple choice or numeric answers, or need the participants to write a detailed written solution or proof. In fact, the latter type of tests (where participants write a full proof) are typically referred to as Mathematical Olympiads.

This blog tells you about the most popular math competitions across the US. Typically, registration for these contests depends on the grade level of math that the student has worked with rather than the age or the enrolled grade of the student. 

The major US math competitions for elementary school students aside, here are some of the leading math competitions for middle and high school students in the US:

American Mathematics Contest - AMC 8

This is a 25-question, 40-minute, multiple choice exam in middle school mathematics aimed at promoting the development of problem-solving skills. The AMC 8 allows middle school students to develop positive attitudes towards analytical thinking and mathematics that can help in future careers. Here students use classroom skills to solve unique problems in a friendly environment. The AMC 8 covers topics from a typical middle school mathematics curriculum; so the material would include but not stay limited to: counting and probability, estimation, proportional reasoning, elementary geometry including the Pythagorean Theorem, spatial visualization, everyday applications, and reading and interpreting graphs and tables. The competition is typically held in November. Last year it was held on November 12, 2019. For more information, visit: https://www.maa.org/math-competitions/amc-8 


American Mathematics Contest - AMC 10/12

Created to encourage the development and enhancement of problem-solving skills among students, the American Mathematics Contests, AMC 10 and AMC 12 are 25-question, 75-minute, multiple choice examinations in high school mathematics. AMC 10 is meant for students in 10th grade and below, and covers the high school curriculum up to 10th grade. The AMC 12 covers the entire high school curriculum including trigonometry, advanced algebra, and advanced geometry, but excluding calculus and is meant for students in grade 12 or below. Last year (2019), both these competitions were held around the country on February 7 and February 13. The AMC 10/12 help high school students develop positive attitudes towards analytical thinking and mathematics that can assist in future careers. The AMC 10/12 are among the first in a series of competitions that eventually lead all the way to the International Mathematical Olympiad. This year, the dates for AMC 10/12 A and AMC 10/12 B are January 30, 2020 and February 5, 2020 respectively. For more information, visit: https://www.maa.org/math-competitions/amc-1012 


Berkeley Math Tournament 

The Berkeley Math Tournament Group is a student run-organization founded at the University of California-Berkeley. Formed in the early 2010’s, it hosts the Berkeley Math Tournament (BMT) and the Berkeley mini-Math Tournament (BmMT), both of which are aimed at gathering students from the Bay Area and elsewhere to celebrate mathematics and the spirit of mathematical competition. The Berkeley mini-Math Tournament is offered in the fall and its goal is to instill an appreciation for mathematics among elementary and middle school students. The Berkeley Math Tournament, meanwhile, is held in the spring and provides high school students to team up with other like-minded individuals who share their interest in maths. This tournament typically covers concepts studied in higher mathematics. Final team scores are calculated by a linear combination of focus, team, and power results. The top finishers at BMT qualify for the US Math Competition Association (USMCA) national championship. While the BMT is usually held in April (last year it was held on April 7, 2019), the BmMT was held on November 17, 2019. For more information, visit: https://bmt.berkeley.edu 


Caltech Harvey Mudd Math Competition

The Caltech Harvey Mudd Math Competition is a team competition for high school students organized by the Caltech and Harvey Mudd math clubs. Contestants have to be 19 years old or younger and must not be enrolled full time at a university. A team can have no more than six people. The group round lasts for 75 minutes. The test has two equally weighted parts: a short answer part (called the team round) and a power question. Teams can work on the two parts simultaneously. The team round will have ten questions worth 9 points each with numerical or algebraic answers. The power question is where teams not only answer but also justify their answers to the power question. The individual round takes 60 minutes, where students have to answer fifteen questions worth 2 points each with numeric or algebraic answers. The competition was held on November 17 at Caltech last year (2019). For more information, visit: http://chmmc.caltech.edu/


Carnegie Mellon Informatics and Mathematics Competition

An annual math and computer science competition, the Carnegie Mellon Informatics and Mathematics Competition (CMIMC) is held at Carnegie Mellon University by CMU students. It is typically held in January each year; last year (2019) it was held on January 26 and this year, it is being held on February 1, 2020. Contestants - only high school students - come in teams of 4-6 and there are five rounds in all: power round, team round, and three individual rounds. The power round, lasting 60 mins, has proof-based problems, all related to one topic although problems will have varying levels of difficulty. The team round typically has fifteen short-answer problems that are to be solved within 60 minutes. The individual rounds are also 60 min-long and have ten short-answer problems. Each competitor appears for all three individual rounds on the following subjects: algebra and number theory, combinatorics and computer science, and Geometry. Awards are given out to top 10 scorers in each individual round, the 5 top-scoring teams in the power round, and the 5 top-scoring teams overall. For more information, visit: http://cmimc-official.herokuapp.com/


Duke Math Meet

The Duke Math Meet (DMM) is a regional mathematics competition for high school students held at Duke University every year. The contest is put together by the members of the Duke University Mathematics Union (DUMU), and is sponsored by the Duke mathematics department. The DMM takes place on one day from morning to afternoon, during which the students solve challenging mathematics problems. It is typically held in the first week of November; last year, it was held on November 2, 2019. There are five rounds in all. The power round is a multi-part proof problem where all the problems are related to one topic. The team round has ten questions with the team working together and turning in a single answer sheet. The individual round has 10 questions split into 5 pairs and participants get one pair at a time, and have 10 minutes to solve the two problems. The relay round has each team broken down into groups of three. Each of the three people are then given a different problem. When the first person solves his / her problem, he/ she writes the answer on a small piece of paper and passes it to the right or the left and so on. The devil round is a special round held just for fun and it doesn’t affect individual / team scores. All participants, including alternates, are randomly placed in mixed teams of six or seven. Each team is given a name and picks a runner, who will be in charge of retrieving questions and submitting the team’s solutions. The team then gets a starting question on a piece of paper; once they’ve written a solution and their team name on it, the runner will run it to the moderators and receive another question in return. For more information, visit: https://math.duke.edu/duke-math-meet


Louisiana State University (LSU) High School Math Contest

Open to only high school students, the LSU High School Math Contest is usually held in March. Last year (2019), it was held on March 16 and this year, it will be held on March 14, 2020. A student can attend only one morning session, either Algebra/Geometry or Open. Participation in the Algebra/Geometry session is limited to students who are presently enrolled in Algebra I, Algebra II, or Geometry. The material in the Algebra/Geometry session will be drawn from Algebra I and Geometry. The Open session and the Team event are open to all students. Algebra II students may wish to enroll in the Open session. The morning session exams have up to 20 multiple choice questions, up to 12 exact answer questions, and one essay question which is graded in the case of a tie. As far as team sessions are concerned, teams can have maximum 10 students. A school can enter more than one team, but only the highest scoring team of a school is eligible for medals. Schools with less than 10 students can join to form a team. For more information, visit: https://www.math.lsu.edu/~contest/



Mathcounts, aka MATHCOUNTS, is a nationwide middle school (grades 6-8) mathematics competition held in various places in the United States. Its founding sponsors include the CNA Foundation, the National Society of Professional Engineers, and the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. The subject matter covered includes geometry, counting, probability, number theory, and algebra. The MATHCOUNTS Competition Series brings together students from all American states in a series of in-person contests. The Competition Series has four levels of competition—school, chapter, state and national. Each level in turn has four rounds—Sprint, Target, Team and Countdown Round. The rounds take up around 3 hours each. While the Sprint Round gives students 40 minutes to complete 30 math problems without a calculator, the Target Round assesses problem-solving and mathematical reasoning skills as students get 4 pairs of problems and have 6 minutes to complete each pair, assuming the use of a calculator. The Team Round meanwhile requires problem-solving and collaboration and the Countdown Round is where speed and accuracy are tested as students have a maximum of 45 seconds per problem without a calculator. This round is optional at the school, chapter and state level. Students have to register in the fall, followed by school competition in January, local Chapter competition in February, State competition in March and the National competition in May. Winning student here gets the $20,000 Donald G. Weinert College Scholarship. For more information, visit: https://www.mathcounts.org 


Math League

Founded in 1977 by two high school mathematics teachers, Steven R. Conrad and Daniel Flegler, Math League is a math competition for elementary, middle, and high school students in the United States, Canada, and other countries. It aims to offer students the opportunity to participate in an academically-oriented activity and thus gain recognition for mathematical achievements. The deadline for fourth and fifth graders to register for the Math League contest to be held in April is January 31, 2020. Fifth, sixth and eighth graders have to register by December 31, 2019 and the contests for them are scheduled to be held on the third or fourth Tuesday in February 2020 (February 18 or February 25, 2020). The contests typically consist of math contests (individual questions, team questions, relay questions, and speed questions) as well as a series of lectures on various mathematical topics. Highest scoring students receive certificates of achievement for each grade level. For more details, visit: http://mathleague.com/


Math Majors of America Tournament for High Schools

Math Majors of America Tournament for High Schools (MMATHS) is usually held in April. Last year (2019), it was held on April 13; MMATHS 2020 will be held at Columbia University, University of Florida, University of Michigan, University of Virginia, and Yale University on March 28, 2020.  The deadline to register is March 1, 2020. It is aimed at assessing problem-solving abilities in areas such as algebra, geometry, probability, and combinatorics and is open to teams of six students (from high school only). A team can have members from different schools. The individual round is a 12-question, 75-minute test. All of the questions are weighted equally and have only numerical answers. In the mathathon round, teams work together to solve small packets of questions. Upon submitting final answers to one packet, the team can move to the next one. The point values for each question increase, and so does the difficulty. The team will have 75 minutes to get through as many packets as it can. For the mixer round, teams are randomly formed. Each of these teams have 75 minutes to work on a variety of challenging questions. For more information, visit: http://www.mmaths.org/registration.html 


Math Olympiads for Elementary and Middle Schools (MOEMS)

MOEMS is a worldwide math competition, organized by a not-for-profit foundation of the same name. It is held each year from November through March with one test scheduled each month. Tests are held at individual schools across the US and results are sent to MOEMS for scoring. Home schools and institutions too can take part in the contest; additionally, two dozen other nations participate in the competition, making it one of the most popular math competitions in the world. There are two divisions to the contest: elementary and middle school. Elementary level problems are for grades 4-6 while middle school level problems are for grades 7-8. Winners get plaques and certificates. For more details, visit: https://www.moems.org/ 


Princeton University Mathematics Competition

An annual competition run by the Princeton University Math Club, the Princeton University Mathematics Competition (PUMaC) is a student-run competition; it has been put together since 2006 by Math Club volunteers. The competition is open to high-school students and sees participation from across the US in addition to several international teams coming to the Princeton University campus and sitting for various mathematics assessment tests. The competition is a member of the US Math Competition Association (USMCA); this means that the 20 teams in division A with the highest overall score win USMCA circuit points towards the USMCA National Championship. PUMaC 2019 was held on November 16, 2019. Each team has to pay an entry fee of 100 USD. For more information, visit: https://pumac.princeton.edu/


Rocket City Math League (RCML)

RCML is a year-long, international, four-round math competition for middle and high school students. Run by students at Virgil I. Grissom High School in Huntsville, Alabama, RCML gets its name from Huntsville’s nickname as the ‘Rocket City’. RCML was started in 2001 and has been annually sponsored by the Mu Alpha Theta Math Honor Society. The competition consists of 3 individual rounds and a team round - a total of 4 rounds - for middle and high school students. The individual rounds are divided into 5 levels named for NASA programs: Explorer (pre-algebra), Mercury (algebra I), Gemini (geometry), Apollo (algebra II), and Discovery (comprehensive). A student can only compete in one division corresponding to the math course he/ she has currently enrolled in or a higher level math course. In the Interschool Round, all students from a school have to work on the same test and then submit a single answer sheet for the entire school. Tests are sent to registered schools via email before each round, and scores are entered on an online database. Trophies are mailed to the top ranked students and schools at the end of the year. The last round of the competition typically takes place in March. For more information, visit: https://www.grissommath.org/rcml.


Stanford Math Tournament

Held at Stanford University, Stanford Math Tournament (SMT) is an annual student-run math competition for high school students. SMT is aimed at encouraging interest in math by giving students from around the world a chance to work on fun, challenging problems and to meet other like-minded students who are interested in math. Last year, it was held on March 2, 2019; dates for this year have not been shared yet. Teams can take part in groups of up to eight students. The contest has an individual and a team portion. The Team Round has a 50-minute exam comprising 15 short answer questions, whereas the Power Round refers to an 80-minute exam with emphasis on proof-writing. The test usually focuses on a single subject matter that is quite different from traditional competitive math problems. Under the Individual Portion, students can either take two individual subject tests on a particular subject or take one, albeit longer, General Test. The Subject Tests are 50-minute exams consisting of 10 short answer questions and one can pick from algebra, calculus, discrete and geometry. The Discrete test covers probability, number theory, and combinatorics. The General Test is a 110-minute exam consisting of 25 short answer questions. For more information, visit: https://sumo.stanford.edu/smt/ 


US Math Competition Association (USMCA) national championship

Top scoring teams at each USMCA member contest earn points in the USMCA National Circuit. The following are USMCA member contests: Duke Math Meet, Princeton University Math Competition, Carnegie Mellon Informatics and Mathematics Competition, Caltech Harvey Mudd Math Competition, Louisiana State University High School Math Contest, Berkeley Math Tournament and Math Majors of America Tournament for High Schools. At the end of the year, the top 30 teams in the USMCA National Circuit are invited to compete in the USMCA National Championship. The top 10 teams qualify for the Premier Division, a 2-hour, 8-problem Olympiad style contest. The next 20 teams qualify for the Challenger Division, a 2-hour, 30-problem short answer contest. Both contests are taken collaboratively by a team of up to 8 students, with no computational aids except pencil and paper. The National Championship exam is emailed to coaches, and can be taken at any time in a one-week window in early May. For more information, visit: http://www.usmath.org 


USA Mathematical Olympiad (USAMO)

The United States of America Mathematical Olympiad (USAMO) is a highly selective high school mathematics competition held every year in the United States. Since its debut in 1972, it has been the final round of the AMC series of contests. Top scoring AMC 12 participants (based on a combination of AMC 12 and AIME score) are invited to take the USAMO. In 2010, the United States of America Junior Mathematical Olympiad (USAJMO) was introduced to acknowledge the top scorers based on their AMC 10 scores. Both the USAMO and the USAJMO are six-question, two-day, 9-hour essay/proof examinations. U.S. citizens and students studying in the United States and Canada (with qualifying scores) are eligible to take the USAMO and USAJMO, both of which are usually held in April each year; USAMO is being held on April 14 and 15, 2020. Top scorers at the USAMO are invited to the Mathematical Olympiad Summer Program to represent the United States at the International Mathematical Olympiad. For more information, visit: https://www.maa.org 

Enhance Mathematical Skills Through Coding

While mathematics competitions provide a fantastic arena for students to showcase their problem-solving skills, integrating technology and coding into their learning process can further enhance their logical and analytical abilities. At YoungWonks, we believe in the power of coding education for enriching a student’s mathematical understanding. Our Coding Classes for Kids offer a structured curriculum that introduces children to the fundamentals of programming, providing them with a strong foundation to tackle complex mathematical problems. For those particularly interested in deepening their programming knowledge, our Python Coding Classes for Kids are designed to teach the intricacies of Python, one of the most popular and versatile programming languages. Additionally, for students fascinated by hardware and looking to explore the intersection of coding with electronics, our Raspberry Pi, Arduino and Game Development Coding Classes present an excellent opportunity. By learning through doing, students not only improve their computational thinking but also develop a hands-on understanding of mathematical concepts, making them better equipped for both academic competitions and real-world challenges.

*Contributors: Written by Vidya Prabhu; Lead image by: Leonel Cruz

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