15 Best Math Competitions for High Schoolers

August 29, 2023

math competitions for high school students

So, math is not only your favorite subject, but it’s also your strong suit. Whether algebra, trigonometry, or calculus, you have an aptitude for numbers. Now, you want to test your knowledge against other students in some friendly math competitions for high schoolers. Entering math competitions can be a good experience for both your own personal growth and to sharpen your skillset. Plus, high school math competitions are great extracurriculars. When you apply to college, it’s something you can put on a resume! In this article, we’ll outline 15 popular high school math competitions. We’ll discuss what you can expect to be tested over and the requirements to enter.

High School Math Competitions – Qualifications

Firstly, it’s important to understand some basics related to the qualifications for high school math competitions. Some of the following competitions require a certain score on the AMC 10 or AMC 12 examinations. Essentially, the AMC 10 and the AMC 12 examinations are tests distributed to high school students to gauge their problem-solving skills. For both tests, students have 75 minutes to answer 25 multiple-choice questions.

Typically, the AMC 10 is distributed to 10th graders. However, younger students can also sit for the exam, if qualified. This test is intended to cover the U.S. high school math curriculum up to the 10th-grade level. Students ages 17.5 or younger are eligible to take this examination.

The AMC 12 is a test designed to cover the entire U.S. high school math curriculum, including trigonometry, advanced algebra, and advanced geometry. However, this test does not cover calculus. Usually, the AMC 12 is administered to students in 12th grade, but younger students can qualify. Students must be either 19.5 years old or younger to be eligible for this exam.

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In most cases, a provided score on either AMC test is necessary to enter high school math competitions. The scores are necessary to gauge a student’s readiness for a competition at a competitive and high level.

As well, some math competitions require you to work in a team. Within these competitions, students may be responsible for team answers as well as individual answers. In some cases, students are able to choose their own teams. However, sometimes teams are assigned by grouping high-performing students together who come from a particular region.

In any case, it’s best to register for competitions as early as possible and to review any competition-specific guidelines. Most math competitions will outline their expectations on their websites. So, check early and check often!

Math Competitions for High Schoolers

The following list is not necessarily ordered by prestige or any other objective factor. The following list is meant only to be a comprehensive list of available high school math competitions.

1) American Invitational Mathematics Examination

One of the popular high school math competitions, the American Invitational Mathematics Examination is an intermediate examination. In order to be eligible, students must score within the top 2.5% on the AMC 10 exam. As well, students who scored within the top 5% on the AMC are eligible to participate.

This test is a 15 question, 3-hour examination. Each question can be solved using pre-calculus methods. Students may not use a calculator on this examination.

2) American Mathematics Competitions (AMC)

Like the previous competition, students will need to complete either an AMC 10 or AMC 12 examination to be eligible. Calculus is not covered.

3) American Regions Mathematics League

In this math competition, students will work in teams of 15. Each team will have at least one coach to help guide them through the series of questions.

The top 15 highest performing students on the AMC will be grouped together into the A1 team. The next top 15 top performing students will be grouped together into the A2 team, etc. Teams must be drawn from a well-defined region.

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4) Harvard MIT Mathematics Tournament

Students may be tested as both an individual and through a team evaluation. This tournament also features the signature Guts Round, challenging students with a series of short answer questions of varying difficulty.

The examinations take place in either February (teams of 6-8) or November (teams of 4-6).

In the individual round, students have 50 minutes to solve 10 problems. In November, this section requires a general round as well as a themed round.

During the team round, students have 60 minutes to answer 10 problems. In November, the solutions are short answer-based. February’s answers are proof-based.

In the Guts Round, students have 80 minutes to answer 36 problems. In November, the problems are divided into sets of 3. For February, the problems are divided into sets of 4.

5) MathWorks Math Modeling Challenge

This math competition is free to enter and is typically reserved for high school juniors and seniors. Interestingly, this competition is entirely Internet-based.

6) Modeling the Future

Students will test their ability to analyze data and risk management. Students conduct their own research to solve real-world problems. Through entering this math competition, students have the opportunity to win a share of up to $60,000 in scholarship prizes.

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7) USA Mathematical Talent Search

All U.S. middle and high school students are eligible for this free competition. Unlike some other timed competitions, this competition allows students up to one month to solve their equations. As well, supplemental materials like calculators and books are allowed for use. The problems range in difficulty.

8) Academic Decathlon

The Academic Decathlon is a multidisciplinary event. Typically, the subjects of humanities, math, and science converge around a chosen theme.

9) Microsoft Imagine Cup

A team-based global competition, this math tournament is geared toward students of at least 16 years old. Each team should include 4 members. The goal of this competition is to innovate impactful solutions through technology.

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10) MIT THINK Scholars Program

Instead of answering a series of questions, students create their own STEM-based research proposal. The parameters of the proposal are that the project should be completed within a semester and consist of a $1,000 budget or less. Finalists are selected by a panel of judges.

11) Physics Bowl

The Physics Bowl is an international competition and is completed with a team. In the exam, students answer 40 multiple-choice questions over 45 minutes. The competition is divided into divisions. Division I is for first-year physics students. Therefore, Division II is for second-year students.

12) Technology Student Association High School Competition

This student association contains a series of intriguing high school math competitions, including opportunities for data science, coding, and biotechnology. Each competition has different eligibility requirements.

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13) USA Computing Olympiad

Typically, training camps open in late May/ early June. At these camps, teams compete for placement on team USA to compete at an international level.

14) National Robotics Challenge

This competition would be ideal for students interested in engineering. There are no mandatory kits to buy, so the competition proves to be slightly more accessible.

15) Odyssey of the Mind

Students are challenged to test their innovation and creativity to solve real-world problems. Typically, each year a series of different “problems” are presented, and students must design the best solutions. A list of previous year’s problems is available to view online.

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Undoubtedly, there are a variety of mathematical disciplines. Math competitions for high schoolers are designed to strengthen the skillset of a particular disciple. As well, some math competitions also test your ability to work as a team, communicate well with others, and display your initiative. In addition to your mathematical aptitude, these qualities can be positively displayed when you think about applying to colleges.

Maybe you’re thinking about taking your love of math to the next level and majoring in a mathematical discipline. If so, you’re probably wondering what are the best colleges for studying math.

Studying math in college is an excellent choice if you’re looking at careers in computer science, robotics, engineering, and more. Choosing the right university program for you will open the door to a variety of rewarding experiences. Competing in math competitions for high schoolers may be a great first step before you decide to major in math.

Summer Math Programs for High Schoolers

Similarly, you might want to focus on maintaining your mathematical skillset over the summer. Once classes are completed for the school year, you want to keep your mind sharp. There are a variety of summer math programs available for high school students to attend.

Not only will attending these summer programs be a fantastic educational experience, but also you can include this accomplishment on your college applications. Seeking out additional mathematical study shows your dedication and motivation. Plus, you might also learn some helpful skills for studying math at a higher caliber.

If you are planning on registering for a math competition over the summer, be aware that there will be registration fees included. Most of the competitions are local to the universities who host them, so travel may be involved for an additional expense. Typically, the programs run from 5 to 6 weeks.

Yet, the programs offer a variety of rewarding and challenging experiences and are definitely worth considering. For example, some programs offer guest lecturers, field trips, and opportunities to meet with the faculty. Plus, you might even be able to publish your research or a paper if you complete one while working with other students.

However, some university programs, like Sandford’s, offer an online option for interested students. That way, you don’t even need to leave the comfort of your own home to partake in the fun!

High School Math Competitions – In Review

As we have seen, there are a lot of opportunities for high schoolers looking to flex their intellectual muscles. Math competitions for high schoolers are great opportunities for students to get out of their comfort zone and try something new. These competitions also teach real-world skills that will be useful as students move on to the next stage in their academic careers and into the workplace.

While competing at a high level may feel intimidating at first, math competitions are ultimately about having fun and challenging yourself. Likewise, these competitions are a great way to meet like-minded folks who share your interests. It’s not a bad place to network and maybe even meet new friends. If you love math and want to test your skills, build your resume, and meet new people, math competitions for high schoolers may be the best way to go.