Why You Should Consider Mu Alpha Theta

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

a group of students leaned on a wall smiling towards the camera

Why You Should Consider Mu Alpha Theta

Mu Alpha Theta (ΜΑΘ) is a national honor society in the United States dedicated to celebrating mathematics at the high school and two-year college levels. By 2015, it had accepted more than 108,000 student members across over 2,200 chapters, not just in the U.S. but in 20 other countries as well.

The society aims to encourage a strong interest in mathematics, encourage academic excellence, and make math enjoyable for students at high schools and two-year colleges.

What is Mu Alpha Theta?

Founded in 1957 at the University of Oklahoma, Mu Alpha Theta serves as the country’s premier honor society for mathematics at the high school and two-year college levels. This organization commits itself to promoting a deep appreciation for mathematics, encouraging academic excellence in the said field, and aspiring for a more enjoyable mathematical experience in schools. Over 100,000 members from more than 2,420 schools across the United States and 23 other countries are part of Mu Alpha Theta.

Mu Alpha Theta, named after the Greek transliteration for “math,” has grown significantly, now extending to 23 international countries. This honor society connects over a hundred thousand students through its local chapters. Each year, these chapters organize events where you can celebrate your passion for mathematics, improve your skills, and build a strong academic and professional portfolio for careers in math-related fields.

In general, Mu Alpha Teta operates through the following:

  • Provides schools with a structure to recognize and motivate students who excel in and enjoy mathematics.
  • Organizes a national convention where students and teachers can participate in mathematics-related activities and connect with other members from across the country.
  • Honors outstanding extracurricular achievements by awarding scholarships, grants, and other honors to students and their faculty advisors.
  • Organizes math competitions for its members, including the Rocket City Math League and the Mathematical Minutes Video Contest.

What does Mu Alpha Theta do?

At its core, Mu Alpha Theta aims to support and recognize students who excel and find joy in mathematics. It fills a gap in many high schools that lack programs for students interested in exploring math beyond the standard curriculum by offering a structured approach through its local chapters.

Group of students walking in the campus.

Nationally, Mu Alpha Theta organizes an annual convention that changes locations each year, bringing together teachers and students. This event features a variety of math-related activities and increases the organization’s visibility while providing a space for math enthusiasts from across the nation to engage in fun and intellectually stimulating interactions.

Mu Alpha Theta actively rewards its participants with grants and scholarships. The organization also extends support to faculty advisers who facilitate local chapters, providing them with grants and scholarships.

Additionally, Mu Alpha Theta plays a significant role in building a competitive spirit among math lovers across the nation. The organization hosts various competitions, allowing members to challenge one another and showcase their mathematical skills through diverse tests.

Who can join Mu Alpha Theta?

Joining Mu Alpha Theta offers high school students an opportunity to enhance their mathematical skills, but there are essential prerequisites to meet:

  • Grade Levels: Open to students in grades 9 through 12.
  • School Enrollment: Students must be registered at the school where they are joining the chapter. In other words, students can’t join a local chapter at a school other than the one they’re attending.
  • Mathematical Preparation: 1) Completion of two years of college-prep mathematics, including geometry and/or algebra. 2) Currently enrolled in or completed a third year of college-prep mathematics.
  • Academic Performance: A minimum 3.0 GPA in math classes, calculated on a 4-point grading scale.

Some chapters might impose additional requirements such as:

  • Membership fees.
  • Purchase of a club t-shirt.
  • Attendance at a certain number of chapter meetings.
  • Volunteer commitments related to mathematics.

Prospective members should check with their school’s chapter to ensure they can meet all specific requirements.

What are the competitions that Mu Alpha Theta hosts?

Throughout the entire academic year, Mu Alpha Theta hosts or organizes competitions in which student and faculty members can participate. Here are some of the most popular competitions they hold every year:

Mathematical Minutes Video Contest

The Mathematical Minutes Video Contest invites members to create both educational and entertaining short videos or films. Participants from each chapter choose a mathematical subject and develop a lively and informative video lasting between two and five minutes.

Group of students talking in a room.

Doral Academy Charter High School oversees the contest for the 2023-2024 academic year. Each chapter’s sponsor must review and approve the video and complete an entry form.

  • Open submission: February 1, 2024
  • Deadline: February 29, 2024

Each school is limited to three video submissions. The prize money can be awarded either to the individual students or to their chapter. Videos must receive endorsement from the chapter’s sponsor, who must approve the content. All videos should be G-rated only. Additionally, all submissions must include closed captions.

By mid-April 2024, eight videos will be selected for the final judging phase. The chapters themselves will rank these top eight entries. Prize distribution will depend on the collective voting results and the input from Mu Alpha Theta’s Governing Council.

Submissions should cover high school mathematics topics up to calculus. Videos are categorized based on the mathematical level of the content: THETA for geometry or algebra 2, ALPHA for precalculus, and MU for calculus. Each video should clearly indicate the category it is intended to be judged under, based on the mathematical concepts it addresses.

You can take a look at the complete list of all the competition rules and regulations here.

Rocket City Math League

The Rocket City Math League is a free international math competition open to middle school, high school, and two-year college students. Participants can compete in math courses ranging from pre-algebra to precalculus and beyond. This competition offers a broad range of categories to accommodate various levels of mathematical knowledge.

Overview of the Rocket City Math League:

This league conducts three distinct 30-minute tests in the spring, each tailored to different student levels, featuring 10 questions per test. During the Interschool Test, student teams answer a 15-question test collaboratively, submitting answers on a single sheet. Teams are classified into two divisions based on the highest grade level of any team member:

  • Senior Division includes any team with a student in 10th grade or above
  • Junior Division comprises teams of younger students.

Schools must choose to compete in one division only.

A young woman using a laptop while writing on her table.

Specific guidelines for the Spring Individual Competitions include:

  • Explorer Level: Open to students who have not yet started Algebra I, though the test content is designed to challenge advanced pre-algebra understanding.
  • Mercury Level: For students currently taking Algebra I.
  • Gemini Level: Geared towards students studying geometry.
  • Apollo Level: For students engaged in Algebra II.
  • Discovery Level: This level accommodates students who are in precalculus, have completed precalculus, or are studying calculus.

For two-year college students, the competition is structured as follows:

  • Explorer Level: For pre-algebra students who have not yet started algebra.
  • Mercury Level: Open to students in beginning algebra.
  • Gemini Level: For geometry students.
  • Apollo Level: Intended for those in intermediate algebra.
  • Discovery Level: Includes students in college algebra/trigonometry, calculus, and higher levels.

Two-year college participants should compete at the level corresponding to their coursework during the fall semester and may choose to compete at a higher level if they feel prepared. Once a level is chosen, students must remain in that level throughout the competition. If there are insufficient teams from two-year colleges for the Interschool Test, these teams will compete in Division A.

Tests for the Rocket City Math League can be administered on any single day within the designated testing period as chosen by the sponsor. Team scores are determined by adding the highest five scores from students within the same division and school. Lastly, all related materials, including tests, solutions, and official RCML guidelines, are provided to schools either through email or made accessible online.

Information about the Rocket City Math League, including registration details, is available on the RCML’s website. All participating teams or individuals must have a sponsor, typically a math team coach or a math teacher, who is responsible for registering for the contest, overseeing the tests, and uploading the scores online.

Mu Alpha Theta’s T-shirt design contest

This annual event invites chapters to create a themed T-shirt design, with this year’s theme being “Mathematics, the Solar System and Beyond.”

Winning chapters can earn a prize of $1000 and have the honor of their design being recognized. The contest is part of Mu Alpha Theta’s broader efforts to engage students and promote mathematics through creative and collaborative projects. More information about the contest can be found on their official website.

Three students talking over something on the table.

What scholarships does Mu Alpha Theta award?

The primary scholarship offered to members is worth $4,000 and is offered through Mu Alpha Theta’s Educational Foundation. This scholarship is presented annually to one member from a pool of several thousand. Any senior in high school who is graduating is eligible to be nominated. They also must be current and active members of a local Mu Alpha Theta chapter.

Every chapter can submit up to two applications, regardless of its number of members. The chapter sponsor is responsible for choosing which members, if any, get nominated. All nominees should be excellent mathematics students and loyal to their Mu Alpha Theta chapter. Nominees must also be active participants in local efforts with demonstrable evidence of service related to mathematics.

In addition to this primary scholarship, four other $5,000 scholarships are awarded to top candidates

Here’s a list of the scholarships that the organization awards each year:

Scholarships Awardee Amount
The Mary Rhein Memorial Scholarship 1 $5,000
The Sallie Scudder Memorial Scholarship 1 $5,000
The Paul R. Goodey Scholarship 1 $5,000
The Kay Weiss Scholarship 1 $5,000
Two-Year College Scholarship varies $4,000
High School Scholarship varies $4,000

It’s important to note that the number of awardees for both the two-year college and high school scholarships will vary every year. In 2023 alone, Mu Alpha Theta awarded 3 recipients the two-year college scholarships while there were 27 high school scholarship awardees.

Scholarships awarded by Mu Alpha Theta are sent directly to the recipient’s college or university, where they can be used to cover tuition, fees, books, and other educational expenses. These scholarships must be used within 18 months from the date the winners are notified.

What grants does Mu Alpha Theta award?

There are fees associated with participating in Mu Alpha Theta chapters and related events. Students, teachers, and organizers have a chance to be reimbursed for some of these expenses through various grants. Here are the five primary grants offered through Mu Alpha Theta and what they offer:

  • Chapter Grants — This grant offers up to $1,000 for local chapters that want to improve their mathematical offerings for students.
  • Classroom Teaching Grants — Through this grant, teachers can receive $1,500 reimbursement for money they might have invested in improving students’ educational opportunities.
  • Competition Grants – Many Mu Alpha Theta competitions have entrance fees, and this grant offers $500 to help members cover these costs.
  • Summer Grant – This grant offers up to $4,000 to help local chapters host research/summer programs.
  • National Convention Grant – Through this grant, local chapters can get some costs covered for the National Convention.

Each grant has different provisions and rules. We recommend that you go through them on the organization’s official website.

Group of students walking in the campus.

What awards does Mu Alpha Theta presents?

Mu Alpha Theta gives out prestigious awards available to members and sponsors, each designed to recognize outstanding achievements and contributions in the field of mathematics education.

Here’s a summary of the main awards featured:

The Kalin Award

Established in 1981, this award honors a high school graduating senior who has shown excellence in mathematics and significant service to Mu Alpha Theta. The recipient receives a monetary award and a plaque, with additional benefits for their chapter. To qualify for the award, candidates must uphold the highest standards of mathematical excellence and service to Mu Alpha Theta.

Eligibility is limited to high school seniors who plan to start college in the award year. Each chapter can nominate one member. The selection process is overseen by the chapter sponsor, except when the sponsor has a personal connection to a nominee, to promote impartiality.

Prize: $4,000

The Diane Rubin Service Award

Named after a dedicated former staff member, this award recognizes a Mu Alpha Theta chapter that has demonstrated exceptional community service in mathematics over at least two years. The service should instill interest in mathematics and benefit more than just the chapter itself. The winning chapter receives a cash award and a commemorative plaque at the national convention. A chapter representative’s presence at the convention is not required to win. Additionally, no school can win this award more than once within five years.

Prize: $5,000

The Andree Award

Created in 1987, this award targets students interested in becoming mathematics teachers, commemorating the founders of Mu Alpha Theta. Each chapter is allowed to nominate one high school senior and one college student annually. Attendance at the national convention is not a requirement for consideration.

Prize: $2,500

The Governors’ Leadership and Service Award

Created in 2015 by the Governors of Mu Alpha Theta, this award honors a graduating member who has shown outstanding leadership and significant service to their chapter. The recipient can choose to receive the award as either a scholarship or a cash prize. This flexibility allows the winner to use the funds in a way that best supports their future endeavors.

Prize: $4,000

The Regional Sponsor of the Year Award

In 2015, Mu Alpha Theta introduced the Regional Sponsor of the Year Award to recognize exceptional sponsors of its chapters, especially those who might not have participated in the national convention. This annual award celebrates a sponsor from each region who has significantly contributed to the organization. Eligible nominees must have at least five years of service as a Mu Alpha Theta sponsor and must not be current members of the organization’s governing council.

Prize: $1,000 (for the winner from each region)

The Sister Scholastica Award

Established in 1994 upon the recommendation of student delegates at the National Convention, the Sister Scholastica Most Committed Sponsor Award honors exceptional Mu Alpha Theta chapter sponsors and is named after Sister Scholastica, a dedicated sponsor from 1972 until her retirement. This award, which includes a cash prize, is reserved for sponsors that attend the National Convention. Nominees are chosen based on recommendation letters from current or past students, coworkers, or Mu Alpha Theta colleagues, and the winner is selected by the Student Delegates and recognized during the convention’s closing ceremony. Nominating students may present a speech in support of their nominee to the Student Delegate Assembly.

Prize: $2,000

Group of students talking in a room.

The Huneke Awar

Founded in 1986, the Huneke Award was established by Mu Alpha Theta to honor Harold Huneke, a former Secretary/Treasurer of the organization. The award annually recognizes either a current or retired sponsor who has devoted significant effort and made substantial contributions to Mu Alpha Theta. Eligible nominees must have served as sponsors for at least five years, attended at least two national conventions (or be planning to attend their second convention in the current year), and not be serving on the Mu Alpha Theta Governing Council.

Prize: $2,000

The Mu Alpha Theta Steven Dunbar Award

The Steven Dunbar Award, created by Mu Alpha Theta in 2018 and first awarded in 2019, offers a cash prize in recognition of Steven Dunbar’s significant contributions and the longstanding collaboration between Mu Alpha Theta and the Mathematical Association of America. This award is granted to the highest-ranking USAMO qualifier, who is also a member of Mu Alpha Theta. It celebrates outstanding achievements in mathematics among the society’s members.

Prize: $250

Each award has specific criteria and nomination processes, reflecting Mu Alpha Theta’s commitment to promoting excellence and dedication within the mathematics community. For more detailed information and to view application specifics, please visit the Mu Alpha Theta awards page. This resource will provide you with all the necessary details to understand how you can participate or nominate someone for these honors.

What if I don’t qualify to become a member of Mu Alpha Theta immediately?

Given the requirements to become a member of Mu Alpha Theta, there are some people who wish to join that might not immediately qualify. These individuals who wish to continue interacting with the group in the hopes of joining one day are known as associates. Associates aren’t technically members of the Mu Alpha Theta honor society, but they are likely candidates for eventual membership once all of the requirements are met.

Associates don’t have to pay an initiation fee, but they are allowed to be listed in the records of the National Office if they want to participate in national math contests. Voting is another definitive difference between a member and an associate. Associates aren’t allowed to hold office or vote in their local chapter. This marks a clear advantage for members, but associates are still allowed to attend and speak at meetings.

If you’re beginning to wonder if remaining an associate is worthwhile for an extended period of time…not quite. There’s a one-year limit on being an associate. After 12 months, associates must either be inducted as an official Mu Alpha Theta member if they’re eligible, or they must be taken off the list of associates. If removed, all of the benefits of being an associate would also be taken away. For those considering this step in the membership process, here are the requirements to be a Mu Alpha Theta associate:

  • You must be in high school.
  • You have to be enrolled at the school hosting the local chapter
  • You have to have one year of algebra completed with distinction (or an equivalent course)
  • You have to be currently enrolled in a higher-level math course

Should you join the Mu Alpha Theta?

After everything that we have outlined in this blog, deciding whether to join the organization should be an easy decision to make. Mu Alpha Theta offers a variety of advantages that will surely fulfill your high school and college experience – an experience that can shape your present as a high schooler and your future as an upcoming college student. 

Group of students smiling at while talking to each other.

You can participate in national and regional competitions like the Rocket City Math League and others, which offer challenges at various levels of difficulty. Success in these competitions can boost your academic credentials and offer opportunities to win awards and scholarships. They have an impressive list of member-exclusive awards, scholarships, and grants that are great additions to your college fund.

Most importantly, as someone passionate about Mathematics, the organization and the activities it holds every year is an amazing avenue to practice your passion and learn even more.

On the other hand, there are a few things that you have to consider before making the final decision.

  • Commitment: These activities and competitions are time-consuming. Evaluate whether you can commit the necessary time and energy to participate fully in chapter activities and meet all the obligations that come with membership.
  • Alignment with Goals: Consider how well membership aligns with your academic and career goals. If you are passionate about mathematics and see yourself pursuing a related field, joining could be particularly beneficial.
  • Resources: Evaluate your financial resources as most of the activities, despite being free to members, can still incur expenses. Make sure that this is within you and your parents means.

To sum up, if you have a passion for mathematics and are looking for ways to challenge yourself, meet people who share your interests, and improve your college application, then Mu Alpha Theta can provide you with valuable opportunities. However, before making a decision, it’s important to think about your current commitments, your level of interest in mathematics, and how willing you are to actively participate in the org’s activities.

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