MathCounts: What Students Need to Know

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

Students concentrating on answering the exam.

MathCounts: What Students Need to Know

Mathcounts, often seen as MATHCOUNTS, is a non-profit organization reaching out to middle schoolers in grades 6 through 8 across the United States and some of its territories. Mathcounts is most widely recognized and esteemed for its nationwide competitions, but the group also offers other resources to students such as clubs and online tools.

The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, the National Society of Professional Engineers, and the CNA Foundation are among the Mathcounts founding sponsors.

A group of teenagers in the library talking to each other while holding some books

AdmissionSight always advises parents to encourage their students to embrace extracurricular and after-school activities no matter their age. While most people wait until high school or even college to pursue academic-related material outside of the classroom, there are opportunities even in grade school.

Mathcounts is renowned around the nation as a leading math club for students who excel at math. Here, we’ve outlined some of the most important components of what the program has to offer. This will give parents a better idea of what their children can expect and can help students decide whether or not Mathcounts sounds like something they’d enjoy.

What does Mathcounts do?

When broken down, the three primary programs of Mathcounts are the Mathcounts Competition Series, the National Math Club, and the Math Video Challenge. While each program offers students something unique, which we’ll explore later, the fundamentals informing each remain the same. All of the subject matter focuses on algebra, number theory, probability, counting, and geometry. Through all of their programs, Mathcounts has the sole goal of making learning math enjoyable.

A female student seated by herself writing her college admission essay

Mathcounts has a belief that middle school is an important time when the enjoyment of math should be encouraged while the fear of math needs to be overcome. These programs are designed to nurture positive feelings about math and to develop problem-solving skills in the hopes that students can successfully tackle tough challenges while simultaneously expanding their academic and even career opportunities moving forward.

Even though Mathcounts only focuses on grades 6 through 8, it reaches students in all 50 states and some of its territories with its extracurricular math programs. Over 250,000 students currently participate in these programs or use Mathcounts resources each year – a testament to the program’s popularity and effectiveness. Mathcounts seeks to help each student find their own success in the world of math by providing competitions, programs, and resources that help them explore this subject.

What are the advantages of joining Mathcounts?

  • Participants will be surrounded by other students who enjoy math – If the phrase “math is fun” makes your son or daughter excited, then Mathcounts might just be the perfect after-school activity for them. All students, teachers, and organizers involved in Mathcounts activities have a passion for the subject that oozes through every activity and meeting. For some students, one math class a day just isn’t enough, and this program offers some additional options.
  • It’ll look great on high school and college applications – With over a quarter of a million student participants each year, Mathcounts has earned a reputation as one of the most active and influential math organizations on the grade school level. Whether applying to an esteemed high school or hoping to get put in an advanced math course, participation in a Mathcounts competition looks fantastic on a student’s record. While it doesn’t quite carry the same weight at the collegiate level, it’s still something to add to an application.
  • Students can get a better idea about math as an academic focus – While most people don’t start thinking about their academic goals until college, it’s never too early for students to start choosing a trajectory. The programs offered by Mathcounts makes it easier for grade-schoolers to decide if math is a subject they’d enjoy pursuing further in high school by taking more math classes or participating in more related extracurriculars.
  • It’s great practice for high-school-level math – Instead of targeting high schoolers or grade-schoolers overall, the Mathcounts organization is designed specifically for those in 6th, 7th, and 8th grade. As most extracurricular math programs aim to challenge students with higher-level material, Mathcounts is a great way for participants to prepare for high-school level math. The content is advanced enough to be challenging without being disengaging.
  • It’s fun – Enjoyment isn’t usually the first thing people think about when joining an academically-related program. However, the Mathcounts organization has been designed around the attempt to make math fun for students. By offering a diverse range of programs, from competitive events to relaxed clubs, Mathcounts strives to get all students interested and engaged with math-related activities. The focus is fun and that’s something students can certainly find here.

What does the Mathcounts Competition Series offer?

The most popular program offered by Mouthcounts is its Competition Series which is designed to foster a passion for maths amongst students in an environment where they can put their math skills to the test by competing against fellow members. The Competition Series consists of four primary levels of competition.

There’s a national, state, chapter, and school level. Each offers students a unique stage on which to display their aptitude. Within each level of competition, there are also four unique rounds. The countdown, team, target, and sprint rounds are each designed to challenge students in different ways.

unidentified students writing on their notebooks

  • Countdown Round – As the name suggests, this round focuses on accuracy and speed. Participants will have 45 seconds to answer each problem without using a calculator. This is an optional round at the state, chapter, and school levels of competition.
  • Team Round – This round of competition promotes collaboration and problem-solving within a group context. Participants have to complete 10 different math problems in under 20 minutes. A calculator can be used but only four students from a school’s team can participate in this round.
  • Target Round – This round of the Mathcounts Competition Series focuses on mathematical reasoning and problem-solving. Members will receive four separate pairs of problems. With the use of a calculator, students will have six minutes to finish each pair of problems.
  • Sprint Round – Perhaps the most exciting and nerve-wracking portion of the competition is the Sprint Round. Timing and accuracy are everything in this round. Students have 30 math problems to figure out without a calculator and only 40 minutes to do so. This leaves just over a minute per problem.

Here’s what a rough calendar would look like for clubs participating in the Mathcounts Competition Series:

  1. Schools will register during the fall semester as coaches work with students during the year. Each instructor who joins for the program will receive a School Competition Kit that includes awards for certain excelling students along with the Mathcounts School Handbook. This will become the primary resource teachers use when preparing for the program. Teachers will also be granted access to countless math resources online via the Mathcounts website. There’s no limit to the number of students who can participate in the team meetings in preparation for the competition.
  2. Sometime in January, the School Competition is administered to students by their coaches. Again, there’s no limit to the number of students who compete in this level of the competition. Mathcounts will provide the School Competition in November to coaches. Many use this to figure out which students end up advancing to the Chapter Competition.
  3. Anywhere between one and ten students from every school will move on to the Chapter Competition. This level takes place in February. Every school is allowed to send a complete team of four students and six individual competitors in addition. Each chapter competitor, whether they’re individuals or team members, take part in several rounds of the competition. Then, only four team members will take part in the team round. Schools are permitted to send only a few individual students to compete rather than a full team. Each year, over 500 Chapter Competitions are hosted around the country.
  4. The top students from the Chapter Competition will move on to the State Competition in March. Registration fees for a school will cover students for as far along as they can get in the competition. When students make it to any of the 56 State Competitions, there are no additional fees required. The top four competitors from every State Competition will get an all=expenses-paid vacation to the National Competition, taking place in May. Of these 224 students, 4-person state teams will be formed. Participants will also compete individually.
  5. The National Champion is crowned during the Countdown Round and receives $20,000 through the Donald G. Weinert College Scholarship.

What does the National Club have to offer?

The National Math Club offered was founded in 2007 as the non-competitive answer to the popular Mathcounts competitions. This national program provides students in grades 6 through 8 a flexible, social, and non-competitive space to enjoy math. The club is entirely free and is designed to accommodate several different groups.

Mathcounts provides game instructions, problem sets, and math explorations that students of all skill levels can enjoy. The organization even offers a Club Leader Calendar that outlines an ideal structure for the year to make it easier for National Math Club groups to plan. Here’s what a typical program year would look like:

  1. Each group should register in the fall when club leaders would receive the standard Club Kit. These resource kits include a Club Leader Guide, two decks of cards, and pencils. The packet also includes information for achieving Gold and Silver levels for recognition. Club leaders also have the opportunity to obtain more online resources including dozens of games, problem sets, and math explorations.
  2. Leaders operate math club meetings throughout the year with their students after school. The size of the groups is intended to be flexible so that all students can participate. However, a minimum of 4 students in grades 6, 7, or 8 must attend the meetings regularly. The club leader will decide the frequency and size of meetings. There’s no limit to the number of students who can participate.
  3. Silver Level Status is recognized by Mathcounts for clubs that meet at least 5 times throughout the program year, which typically starts in February. If applied for in time and earned, a Silver Level Status will earn a club Mathcounts pencils, a pennant, certificates of recognition, and entry into a drawing for a $200 prize.
  4. Gold Level Status is reserved for clubs that finish a collaborative and creative project in March. When a club applies for and earns the Gold Level Status before the deadline, the group earns Mathcounts pencils, a banner, and an opportunity to win $300 and the Grand Prize.
  5. Four students and their club leader who won the Grand Prize Drawing will be able to attend the National Competition for free in May. Each individual will receive an all-expenses-paid vacation to attend the competition as honored guests. The winning club also receives all Gold Level prizes, including the $300 gift card.
  6. Organizers have to register their Mathcounts club before the end of June. There are new resources produced each fall.

What does the Mathcounts Video Contest offer?

The Mathcounts Video Challenge offers students an opportunity to make a creative video that displays math being used in a real-life setting. The contest is entirely free, and students will work in groups of four. The video has to show a problem provided by Mathcounts being solved in real-world settings. The exercise is designed to help students think about applying math in realistic settings.

students in a study group

Teams can work on their videos anytime in between the fall semester and the submission deadline of March 6th. There are a few primary areas in which the videos are evaluated:

  1. Mathematical Content – The videos will be assessed on their accurate use of correct mathematics. Judges will determine whether the problem-solving solutions were the most effective at tackling the given problem and whether any errors were made in the process.
  2. Communication – Group videos will also be assessed on their use of the allotted time which is 5 minutes or less. Judges also want to see that the math used in the video is expressed logically and clearly. They want to see students being able to explain the math, not just being able to use it.
  3. Creativity – Instead of being cold and calculated, judges also want to see videos that are creative and original. In general, the more imagination used in the project, the better. The videos will be assessed on their memorability.
  4. Real-World Situation – Since the whole focus of the Mathcounts Video Contest is applying classroom math skills to real-world problems, these videos will also be rated on their representation of actual scenarios. The more relevant the application of the math concepts used, the higher a video will rank.
  5. Following the Rules – As with all competitions, these videos will also be assessed on their adherence to the rules. Each video must be 5 minutes or less, must not contain copyrighted material, and all of the work has to be done by the students themselves.

AdmissionSight is here to help

The AdmissionSight team has built a reputation for helping students achieve their academic goals. With decades of experience navigating the complicated twists and turns of college admissions, we understand what it takes to get into some of the best schools in the country. If there’s one thing we can convince students and parents of, it’s that preparation is key.

It might sound over the top, but you can never start preparing too early. Competitions and clubs like Mathcounts are a great way to start building up a portfolio and experience of activities that will make students even more prepared once college rolls around.

Whether your student needs help preparing for high school or finding the best extracurriculars, we’ve got the tools and services to help. Feel free to contact us today to learn more about what we can offer.


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