Competitions can be an important motivator for young problem solvers and a means of getting their talents noticed by schools and future employers.
The International Mathematical Olympiad (IMO) is the highest achievement for high school aged problem solvers. Participants and medalists are sought after by the best global universities and high paying employers such as the quantitative hedge funds. Metroplex Math Circle is fortunate to have as its Director, Dr. Titu Andreescu, who as the former coach of the US IMO team knows exactly what talents and preparation are required to reach this highest level of global competitiveness. More information about the IMO can be found in the excellent book Count Down and in the documentary Hard Problems.
To qualify for International contests students must first distinguish themselves in a series of National Contests. In the US these contests culminate in the USA Math Olympiad which is used to select the IMO team.
The USA Mathematical Olympiad (USAMO) is a six question, two day, 9 hour essay/proof examination. All problems can be solved with pre-calculus methods. Approximately 500 of the top scoring AMC participants (based on a weighted average) are invited to take the USAMO. Just sitting for the USAMO requires a distinguished performance on the AIME, AMC 12 or AMC 10 tests.
The AIME (American Invitational Mathematics Examination) is an intermediate examination between the AMC 10 or AMC 12 and the USAMO. All students who took the AMC 12 and achieved a score of 100 or more out of a possible 150 are invited to take the AIME. All students who took the AMC 10 and had a score of 120 or were in the top 1% also qualify for the AIME.
The AMC 10 and AMC 12 test are administered to hundreds of thousands of high school students. Many of the universities who routinely reject applicants with 800 SAT Math scores are requiring submission of AMC test scores. A special purpose of the AMC 12 is to help identify those few students with truly exceptional mathematics talent. Students who are among the very best deserve some indication of how they stand relative to other students in the country and around the world.
To prepare for these challenging and potentially life altering tests, AMC offers the AMC 8 eligible to students through the 8th grade. The AMC 8 is a 25 question, 40 minute multiple choice examination in junior high school (middle school) mathematics designed to promote the development and enhancement of problem solving skills. The examination provides an opportunity to apply the concepts taught at the junior high level to problems which not only range from easy to difficult but also cover a wide range of applications. Many problems are designed to challenge students and to offer problem solving experiences beyond those provided in most junior high school mathematics classes.
The USA Mathematical Talent Search is an alternate path to qualify for the AIME test. It differs from the AMC 8, 10 and 12 because it is taken over several weeks and stresses the importance of clearly explaining a solution. As opposed to most mathematics competitions, the USAMTS allows students a full month to work out their solutions. Carefully written justifications are required for each problem. The problems range in difficulty from being within the reach of most high school students to challenging the best students in the nation. Students may use any materials – books, calculators, computers – but all the work must be their own.
Metroplex Math Circle participants are fortunate that there are many opportunities for honing their problem solving skills locally.
The MEANT Math Olympiad is held in the fall and is intended for Middle and High School students (although younger students are allowed to participate.)
The DFW Chapter of the Chinese Institute of Engineers sponsors a Math Competition in the spring for students who are in first through sixth grade.
Contests Related to Mathematics
North American Computational Linguistics Olympiad (NACLO) appeals to many mathematical problem solvers and is used to determine the team which will represent the United States in the International Linguistics Olympiad.