BEEC Webinar: U.S. High School Competition Mathematics

On May 1, 2020, BEEC’s COO Jonathan Ginsberg and Director of Education Peter Alexander chatted about U.S. high school competition mathematics. Here is a brief overview of what was discussed.

Competition mathematics is a good option for students to consider because it can provide a well-organized framework and context for learning and practicing problem solving. These skills are integral to the study of math but are also transferable to other area such as science, technology, engineering, and even law.

Some well-known competitions in the U.S. are Caribou (grades 1-12), Kangaroo Math (grades 1-12), Math Counts (grades 6-8), and the American Mathematical Competition aka AMC. The AMC was the focus of this discussion. It broken into three tests: AMC 8, 10, & 12. If students do well on the AMC 10 or 12, they may be invited to the AIME; if students do well on the AIME, they may be invited to the Harvard/MIT competition, which is the most prestigious math competition in the world.

To do well in these competitions, students must first learn to reason, or problem-solve. BEEC can teach this. Briefly, the road to reasoning looks a bit like this: start with the language, abstract from concrete examples, and generalize and apply. Oftentimes in competition-type problems, “advanced knowledge” is useless where “problem-solving” is priceless.

AMC 8 contains middle-to-hard problems in geometry, pre-algebra, and algebra. AMC 10 & 12 contain more difficult questions, and they are qualifying tests for the American Invitation Mathematics Exams aka AIME. Students may be interested in AIME because doing well is correlated with high performance on SAT and AP Exams, a signal to STEM programs that a student is a superior math student and problem solver, and good way to set oneself apart from other students.

The AMC 10 & AMC 12 each contain 25 questions broken up as follows: 15 core problems at 6 points each and a final set of 10 questions at 8 points each. The last 10 are the most challenging questions; a good goal for this section of the exam is to answer at least 3 questions correctly. Questions left blank still receive 1.5 points, so being strategic helps! If students get all 15 core problems correct and only 3 of the 10 from the challenging section, they will obtain scores that merit an invite to AIME.

A good study plan for these tests cannot be found in school, so students must look elsewhere. A good place to start is the Mathematical Association of America, which has resources for the AMC 8, 10 & 12. Generally, though, a good program must address number theory, geometry, probability, combinatorics, and algebra and functions. It must also focus on constructive methods for problems solving and should include practice problems from real tests. Finally, a good program will have trainers ready at hand. The good news is that you don’t have to look far for a program that encompasses all these components; BEEC’s own program has all you need to succeed!

For more information on how BEEC can help you with competition mathematics, contact us at https://calendly.com/beecinc for a free consultation.

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