Math Competitions





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Discus: High School Life and Pre-college Issues: May, 2003 and Earlier Archive: Math Competitions
By Bkwrm98 (Bkwrm98) on Sunday, April 27, 2003 - 11:20 pm: Edit

Anyone know any good math competition prep books? I'm talking about preparing for AMC12 and AIME

Also, are there any good math comps that are free in registration? My school refuses to fund our math team.

By Texas137 (Texas137) on Monday, April 28, 2003 - 12:19 am: Edit

The best prep books are:
http://www.artofproblemsolving.com/
You'll want vol.1 (plus soln book) for AMC-10/12, and vol. 2 (plus soln book) for AIME.

I know of 2 free comps:
http://www.olemiss.edu/mathed/problem.htm
http://www.nsa.gov/programs/mepp/usamts.html

These two are not free, but they are pretty cheap if you have a group. Maybe some kids could go in on the registration.
http://www.mandelbrot.org/
http://www.mathleague.com/contests.htm

How about a free computer programming comp?
www.usaco.org

By Kad (Kad) on Monday, April 28, 2003 - 05:41 pm: Edit

How high is the level of math in these competitions?

By Texas137 (Texas137) on Monday, April 28, 2003 - 06:00 pm: Edit

In isn't terribly "advanced" in the sense of needing high level courses to do it. For instance, none of it requires calculus. But it's very different from standard curriculum math. You certainly need to know algebra, geometry, etc. But to be successful you also need experience specifically with "competition math". This involves pulling techniques from multiple areas of math and applying them to one problem, and just generally thinking "outside the box". Good competition problems are like complicated little puzzles to be solved creatively, rather than simply applying the techniques in your textbook's examples to similar problems at the end of the chapter. Frequently there are multiple ways to solve a problem. They are all equally valid, but one may be much more efficient.

Competitions will do wonders for your performance in class, but the reverse is not particularly true - making all A's in class and understanding your textbook does not mean that you can go into a competition cold and necessarily do well.

By Bkwrm98 (Bkwrm98) on Monday, April 28, 2003 - 10:39 pm: Edit

Thanks, Texas137. My school is already registered for the Math League, and I'm trying to convince the advisor to sign up for the Mandelbrot competition.
The level of math needed isn't extremely high. I would say you need at least geometry and algebras i and ii, precalculus would be helpful but it's not needed.

By Texas137 (Texas137) on Monday, April 28, 2003 - 10:44 pm: Edit

Math League is particularly good for groups with a range of math abilities. I used it for a combined middle/high school group with good success. There are generally 2 questions (out of 6) that are about the same level as Mathcounts, and 2 that are hard enough to keep the advanced students challenged, and then 2 in the middle.

Mandelbrot is MUCH harder. The individual rounds were a little too challenging for my weakest students. And the team round (proof-writing) was hopeless for all but my 2 strongest students.

By Utop114 (Utop114) on Sunday, May 04, 2003 - 10:31 am: Edit

Texas 137 what grade are you in?

By Texas137 (Texas137) on Sunday, May 04, 2003 - 12:26 pm: Edit

I must be up to about 43rd grade by now. ;-)
In other words, I'm not a student. I coach a math team; that's why I know something about this stuff.

By Adela (Adela) on Sunday, May 11, 2003 - 01:58 am: Edit

o u can also purchase some old AMC/AIME problem book like Contest #5 from maa.org tho itz kinda late.. always can prepare 4 next yr:)

By Autodidact (Autodidact) on Monday, May 12, 2003 - 12:35 am: Edit

Texas137: Guess you're a master teacher by now;-)

By Texas137 (Texas137) on Monday, May 12, 2003 - 07:59 am: Edit

Only a master student ;-)

By Autodidact (Autodidact) on Monday, May 12, 2003 - 09:20 am: Edit

Texas 137: There's a lot to be said for being a "life-long learner." Live long and prosper!

By Amazingsamson (Amazingsamson) on Wednesday, May 14, 2003 - 02:47 am: Edit

texas 137, on ur last comment, "competitions ....do well, " that is the key in identifying gifted mathematicians vs. dumb hard working kids/average kids who understand math on the surface! cause it doesn't take a lot of gift to read, learn, and follow methods, but to accumulate many methods through years of experience and apply them in a very creative way at math competitions is the distinguishing factor!

By Texas137 (Texas137) on Wednesday, May 14, 2003 - 10:44 am: Edit

Amazingsamson - I agree with you completely. It sounds like you have some personal experience with this. The kids who do well in competitions have basic, raw, math talent. But the good math competitions do more than just separate the gifted from the "pluggers". Hard work is important too. The kids who rise to the upper echelons of math competitions are gifted, but have also put in some serious work specifically to prepare. And kids with average, or even below average, math ability can also benefit from working on competition problems. They aren't going to win anything, but if they keep at it, after awhile they start to "get it", and can apply that understanding to their regular math assignments.


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