One of the best ways to encourage aspiring mathematicians is to participate in Math competitions. In today’s article, we will outline competitions suitable for students at all ages of their primary education, from elementary to high school. Students should be interested in this article as well, because some of the contests have generous prizes!
Statistics show some interesting facts about Math education. First, a majority of people report that Math remains the most important school subject for their daily lives as adults. Second, Math is also the subject which a large percentage of people regret not paying close enough attention to during school. According to a Yougov.com survey, 31% of respondents claimed that they wished they had applied themselves better in Math in middle school, high school, and university. Current students should take note. It also behooves parents to help their children to apply themselves in Math, to understand the deeper concepts and meaning of Mathematics in their lives, and to build community with others to help make Math education a positive experience.
Discover math competitions for kids
There are a lot of contests out there for aspiring students in any subject, but it can be a challenge to look for them and to connect with the available resources. Picking the right organization can mean the difference between a successful and positive experience, and one that leads to discouragement or aversion to Math altogether.
Generally, it’s a good idea to look for organizations with a solid history of commitment to education, who have a solid website and supporting information, and who are sponsored by non-profit organizations such as federal or State governments, local and regional school boards, and NGOs. Considering also how math can be applied, it’s a good idea to consider competitions with a multi-disciplinary approach, such as those that blend Math with computer science or engineering projects.
If you feel overwhelmed, don’t worry. We will help break down some of the major contests, who can apply, and possible prizes which can help you find the right one for your budding STEM learner.
Math competitions for high school
Enterprising high school students will want to check out these competitions.
1. MathWorks Math Modeling (M3)Challenge
The MathWorks competition is an all-online opportunity for eleventh and twelfth grade students to showcase their problem solving skills. Participants work in teams to solve an open-ended problem within a 14 hour window. Extra credit is given to students who use coding in their solutions. The contest is free to join and the winning teams can win scholarships totaling $100,000. As of 2022, the organization has awarded over $1.5 million dollars worth of scholarship prizes.
Dates: The contest runs from November to April, with an application deadline in February.
2. United States Academic Decathlon
The USAD is a national competition featuring students from grades 9 - 12, who compete in all subjects including Math, Science, English, History, and more.
Dates: Apply by December 31 for the following year’s competition
Prize: A variety of prizes are available. Winning teams are awarded medals, while certain students and teams can win cash prizes.
3. Test of Engineering Aptitude, Mathematics, and Science (TEAMS)
TEAMS is an annual exam competition that takes place in February and March each year, where middle and high school students can use their math and science skills to discover the potential of engineering and applied sciences. Every year’s competition has a theme, and the theme for 2022 is “Engineering in Entertainment.”
Dates: Apply by March
Prize: Trophies and Certificates
4. Regeneron Science Talent Search (STS)
Sponsored by the Society for Science, The Regeneron Science Talent Search is the oldest and most prestigious science and math competition for high school seniors in the USA. The STS identifies promising young scientists who will become the problem solvers of tomorrow, awarding $3.1 Million annually.
Dates: 2023 application will open June 1, 2022
Prize: First prize is $250,000
Math competitions for middle school students
While many of the most prestigious prizes and competitions await high school students, Middle schoolers and their parents also have many opportunities to strengthen their STEM skills. Aside from the TEAMS competition above, the following contest would be perfect to help your middle school student discover Math’s many applications.
5. National Student Leadership Conference
While not strictly a competition, the National Student Leadership Foundation, a non-profit, non-partisan, education organization, has drawn outstanding middle school and high school students from around the world to explore their academic interests and develop core leadership skills during interactive summer programs. The organization has wide recognition and offers hundreds of thousands of dollars in annual scholarships.
Dates: Programs run for several weeks in the summer
Prize: $500,000 in scholarships awarded annually to teachers and students
6. Broadcom MASTERS
Also sponsored by the Society for Science, the Broadcom Masters competition is the most prestigious contest open to Middle School math whizzes. Only open to the top 10% of 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students. Those participating compete online for a chance to win prizes and to compete at the national level.
Dates: Applications for 2022 are still open. Normally they are open from February to June each year.
Prize: Finalists win $500 and a free trip to Washington D.C. where they compete for a variety of high value prizes and scholarships.
7. MathCounts Math Video Challenge
Since 1983, the MathCounts video challenge has reached over 6 million students, helping them to improve their math communication skills, while also appealing to students who dislike math but who like creative projects and multimedia production.Teachers love the program for helping students become more confident in Math, while the program is designed to draw participants coming from underrepresented populations (63% of participants have been girls and/or drawn from less affluent communities). The contest is free to join and awards yearly scholarships.
Dates: Submissions should be submitted between January and March each year
Prize: First prize is a $1,000 scholarship and a trophy for winning team members
8. Raytheon Technologies MathCounts National Competition
Featuring the top 224 “mathletes” from the USA, the annual competition takes place in Washington D.C. and offers middle school students a chance to win substantial prizes.
Dates: The contest is in November each year. Check the website for updated registration info.
Prize: Over $300,000 awarded yearly across a variety of programs
Math competitions for elementary school
With Math becoming an even more fundamental and popular skill, especially for students interested in programming, machine learning, game design, and robotics, Math competitions can play a key role in waking small children up to the joys of problem solving.
9. Math Kangaroo International Math Competition
Since 1998, Math Kangaroo has grown from the US to an international competition of young learners to get excited about communicating their Math skills. The contest has taken place online for the past several years, and it draws participants from dozens of countries globally. They are driven by the mission of getting kids excited about Math, which their ample prizes and exciting practice material are sure to do.
Dates: Contest takes place on in the third week of March each year
Prize: Two $1,000 scholarships awarded yearly and a variety of other cash and non-cash prizes
10. Science Olympiad
Now open to students K-12 and sponsored by NASA, Google, and other major institutions in science and tech, the Science Olympiad is the largest organization in the country running tournaments and competitions for STEM students. They serve over 6,000 teams from grades 6-12. The organization offers resources for students, teachers, and parents to help bolster science education fundamentals, in which Math plays an important role. They also run hand-on activities and labs for younger learners to begin strong in STEM. This link has a breakdown of events by US state.
Dates: Application deadline is March 1, and the competition runs throughout the school year.
Prize: At the National level, winning teams of 5 students compete for a shared $50,000 scholarship, while local and regional events also award a variety of prizes
Are math competitions worth it?
Yes math competitions are worth it, when your child is genuinely interested in them! While we all want the best for our kids, it’s important to consider the different contests carefully before deciding if it’s right for you. First, ask yourself if your child is interested in participating. It’s important to remember that, while extracurricular activities might give your child a competitive edge, it’s important to treat them as extracurricular, especially when substantial prizes are involved. It’s important for both students and their well-intentioned parents to maintain perspective, and to have fun.
While students may thrive on their intelligence alone, they will also be tested on communication skills, team work, and stress management, which may overwhelm some students. Most importantly, students should walk away from the contest feeling confident and eager to learn, and not burnt out or deflated by monumental expectations.
Enjoy math competitions for kids
To sum up, Math skills are fundamental to learners, and preparing them for a tech-driven future begins with Math education. Whether young or old, students can benefit from competitions that push them outside their comfort zone both mathematically and socially, while the excitement of a win or a cash prize might be the catalyst for a lifelong love of math, or at least an adult life not plagued by regret for not paying closer attention in Algebra. Up next, enjoy fun math games for kids and join the best online math classes for kids today to set your young learner up for success. Or begin your coding adventure with a beginner-friendly class:
Written by Bryan Gordon. After ten years of working as an English teacher, Bryan began studying Math and Computer Science over the past few years. Aside from writing and teaching, he likes cooking, gardening, playing guitar, and hanging out with his cats, Baguette and Wally.