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Revision as of 12:19, 30 August 2010 by AlphaBetaTheta (talk | contribs) (Chapter Competition)

MATHCOUNTS is a large national mathematics competition and mathematics coaching program that has served millions of middle school students since 1984. Sponsored by the CNA Foundation, National Society of Professional Engineers, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, and others, the focus of MATHCOUNTS is on mathematical problem solving. Students are eligible for up to three years, but cannot compete beyond their eighth grade year.


MATHCOUNTS curriculum includes arithmetic, algebra, counting, geometry, number theory, probability, and statistics. The focus of MATHCOUNTS curriculum is in developing mathematical problem solving skills.

Before 1990, MATHCOUNTS chose particular areas of mathematics to highlight each year before changing the focus of the competition more broadly to problem solving.

Past Winners

  • 1984: Michael Edwards, Texas
  • 1985: Timothy Kokesh, Oklahoma
  • 1986: Brian David Ewald, Florida
  • 1987: Russell Mann, Tennessee
  • 1988: Andrew Schultz, Illinois
  • 1989: Albert Kurz, Pennsylvania
  • 1990: Brian Jenkins, Arkansas
  • 1991: Jonathan L. Weinstein, Massachusetts
  • 1992: Andrei C. Gnepp, Ohio
  • 1993: Carleton Bosley, Kansas
  • 1994: William O. Engel, Illinois
  • 1995: Richard Reifsnyder, Kentucky
  • 1996: Alexander Schwartz, Pennsylvania
  • 1997: Zhihao Liu, Wisconsin
  • 1998: Ricky Liu, Massachusetts
  • 1999: Po-Ru Loh, Wisconsin
  • 2000: Ruozhou Jia, Illinois
  • 2001: Ryan Ko, New Jersey
  • 2002: Albert Ni, Illinois
  • 2003: Adam Hesterberg, Washington
  • 2004: Gregory Gauthier, Illinois
  • 2005: Neal Wu, Louisiana (Neal is a user on AoPS under the username nebula42)
  • 2006: Daesun Yim, New Jersey (Daesun is a user on AoPS under the usernames Treething and Lazarus)
  • 2007: Kevin Chen, Texas (Kevin is a user on AoPS under the username binonunquineist)
  • 2008: Darryl Wu, Washington (youngest winner ever, at 11, as well as the first 6th grader to ever even make the National Countdown Round)
  • 2009: Bobby Shen, Texas (Bobby is a user on AoPS under the username stevenmeow)
  • 2010: Mark Sellke, Indiana

MATHCOUNTS Competition Structure

Sprint Round

30 problems in 40 minutes. This round is generally made up questions ranging from relatively easy to relatively difficult. Some of the difficult problems are only difficult because calculators are not allowed in this round.

Target Round

8 problems given 2 at a time. Each set of two problems is given six minutes. Students may not go back to previous rounds even if they finish before time is called. Students may use calculators.

Team Round

10 problems in 20 minutes for a team of 4 students. These problems typically include some of the most difficult problems of the competition. Use of a calculator is allowed (and required for some questions).

Countdown Round

High scoring individuals compete head-to-head until a champion is crowned. People compete from off a screen taking 45 seconds or less to finish the problem. The Countdown round is run differently in various different chapter, state, and national competitions. In the national competitions, it is the round that determines the champion.

Ciphering Round

In some states, (most notably Florida) there is an optional ciphering round. Very similar to countdown (in both difficulty and layout), a team sends up a representative to go against all representatives from the other teams. A problem is shown on a screen and students work fast to answer the problem. The students give their answer and after 45 seconds the answer is shown and the answers are checked to see if they are right. The fastest correct answer gets five points, the next fastest gets 4, etc. There are 4 questions per individual and teams send up 4 people. A perfect score is then 80. Often times the questions take clever reading skills. For example, one question was "How much dirt is in a 3 ft by 3 ft by 4 ft hole?" The answer was 0 because there is no dirt in a hole.

Chapter and State Competitions

In the chapter and state competitions, the countdown round is not mandatory. However, if it is deemed official by the chapter or state, the following format must be used:

  • The 10th place written finisher competes against the 9th place written finisher. A problem is displayed, and both competitors have 45 seconds to answer the question, and the first competitor to correctly answer the question receives one point. The person who gets the most correct out of three questions (not necessarily two out of three) is the winner.
  • The winner of the first round goes up against the 8th place finisher.
  • The winner of the second round goes up against the 7th place finisher.

This process is continued until the countdown round reaches the top four written competitors. Starting then, the first person to get three question correct wins (as opposed to the best-out-of-three rule).

If the countdown round is unofficial, any format may be used. Single-elimination bracket-style tournaments are common.

National Competition

At the national competition, there are some structural changes to the countdown round. The top 12 (not the top 10) written finishers make it to the countdown round, and the format is changed from a ladder competition to a single elimination tournament where the top four written competitors get a bye. This setup makes it far more likely for a 12th place finisher to become champion, and it makes it less likely for a first place written finisher to become champion, equalizing the field.

At the first round and the second round, the first person to correctly answer three questions wins. However, at the semifinals, the rules slightly change—the first person to correctly answer four questions wins.

Masters Round

Top students give in-depth explanations to challenging problems. This round is optional at the state level competition and is mandatory at the national competition. At nationals the top two on the written and countdown participate.

Scoring and Ranking

An individual's score is their total number of correct sprint round answers plus 2 times their total number of correct target round answers. This total is out of a maximum of $30 + 2(8) = 46$ points.

A team's score is the average of the individual scores of its four members plus 2 points for every correct team round answer, making a team's maximum possible score 66 points. Therefore, it is possible to win with a relatively low team score and a phenomenal individual score, as the team score is only roughly 30% of the total team score.

MATHCOUNTS Competition Levels

School Competition

Students vie for the chance to make their school teams. Problems at this level require the least depth of curriculum.

Chapter Competition

Chapter competitions serve as a selection filter for state competitions. A few states don't need to host chapter competitions due to a small population size.

State Competition

The top 4 students in each state form the state team for the national competition. The coach of the top school team at the state level is invited to coach the state team at the national competition. Interestingly, the coach of a state team is not necessarily the coach of any of the state's team members.

National Competition

Nation Competition Sites

For many years, the National MATHCOUNTS competition was held in Washington, D.C. More recently, the competition has changed venues often.

  • The 2011 competition will be held in Washington, D.C.
  • The 2009 and 2010 competitions was held in Orlando, Florida.
  • The 2008 competition was held in Denver, Colorado.
  • The 2007 competition was held in Fort Worth, Texas.
  • The 2006 competition was held in Arlington, Virginia.
  • The 2005 competition was held in Detroit, Michigan.
  • The 2004 competition was held in Washington, D.C.
  • The 2002 and 2003 competitions were held in Chicago, Illinois.


Every competitor at the national competition receives a graphing calculator that varies by year - for example, in 2006 it was a TI-84 Plus Silver Edition with the MATHCOUNTS logo on the back. In 2007, MATHCOUNTS took the logo off. In 2008 and 2009, they gave TI-$n$spires to everyone. They also give out a laptop and an 8000 dollar scholarship to the winner.





What comes after MATHCOUNTS?

Give the following competitions a try and take a look at the List of United States high school mathematics competitions.

See also

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