How MATHCOUNTS Helps Students Succeed
posted by: Melissa | April 10, 2018, 05:51 PM   

April is Math Awareness Month, and so to help raise mathematical awareness, we have a blog entry from Ronnie Flowers, one of ASTA's Regional Membership Directors.

I have been involved with MATHCOUNTS as a school coach for 12 years and as the Northwest Arkansas MATHCOUNTS Coordinator for 7 years. I love MATHCOUNTS and giving students the opportunity to be involved in something as great as MATHCOUNTS. Even after I left the classroom and joined the staff of ASTA, the Arkansas chapter of the Association of American Educators, I continued to work with the organization, this time as a sponsor.

For those who aren’t familiar with MATHCOUNTS, it is a national math competition that reaches students who both love and fear math. Thousands of schools and 6th through 8th grade students participate across 56 states and territories. Participants hail from all types of schools including traditional public schools, public charter schools, homeschools, and private schools. Schools register in the fall and work with students during the school year. Coaches administer the School Competition, usually in January. Any number of students from a school can participate at the school level, and between 1 and 10 students from each school advance to the local chapter competition which takes place in February. Each school can send a team of 4 students, plus up to 6 individual competitors. I find that students get really excited about being able to work problems any way that they want, and they don’t even have to show their work.

The Competition Series has 4 levels of competition—school, chapter, state and national. Each level of competition is comprised of 4 rounds—Sprint, Target, Team and Countdown Round. Altogether, the rounds are designed to take about 3 hours to complete. The problems are challenging and based on real world applications. Students enjoy working problems that they don’t see all the time in their regular math classes.

  • Sprint Round: focuses on speed and accuracy. Students have 40 minutes to complete 30 math problems without a calculator.
  • Target Round: focuses on problem-solving and mathematical reasoning. Students receive 4 pairs of problems and have 6 minutes to complete each pair, assuming the use of a calculator.
  • Team Round: focuses on problem-solving and collaboration. Students have 20 minutes to complete 10 math problems, assuming the use of a calculator. Only the 4 students on a school’s official team can take this round officially.
  • Countdown Round: focuses on speed and accuracy. Students have a maximum of 45 seconds per problem without a calculator. This round is optional at the school, chapter, and state level.

All chapter competitors—whether they are team members or individuals—participate in the individual rounds of the competition; then just the 4 team members participate in the team round. Schools also can opt to send just a few individual competitors, rather than forming a full team. Over 500 Chapter competitions take place across the country. Top students from each Chapter Competition advance to their State Competition which takes place in March. A school’s registration fees cover its students for as far as they get in the Competition Series. Many schools have applied for and have received grants from AAE to cover registration fees, snacks at meetings, and even paying for a school bus to take the students to competitions. If students make it to one of the 56 State Competitions no additional fees are required.

The top 4 individual competitors from each State Competition receive an all-expenses-paid trip to the National MATHCOUNTS Competition on May 12 -15 in Washington, D.C. These 224 students combine to form 4-person state teams, while also competing individually for the title of National Champion. The coach of the top placing team at the State Competition will be the coach of the 4-person state team and receive an all-expenses-paid trip as well

MATHCOUNTS not only includes the competition program, it also has a free math club program with free resources for making math fun and interesting as well as a MathVideo Challenge which is a free challenge for 6th – 8th grade students to create a video about math using one of the competition problems. There is also a problem of the week at the MATHCOUNTS website,

As an educator, father, and ASTA staff member, I believe that teaching our students to love math and embrace STEM education is key. Which is why I look back on my involvement with MATHCOUNTS with both joy and pride, and I hope to stay involved in the competitions for years to come. The students love it, the teachers love it, and the parents love it.

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