How to Prepare for MATHCOUNTS
What is MATHCOUNTS
MATHCOUNTS is a middle school math competition. organized by the MATHCOUNTS foundation. The competition has 4 levels:
MATHCOUNTS also includes a fun math video challenge.
When is MATHCOUNTS
The competition dates for 2023 are:
School: August 2022 - January 2023
Chapter: February 1-28, 2023
State: March 1 - April 1, 2023
National: May 13 - 16, 2023, Orlando, FL
For 2022, you can find the 2022 MATHCOUNTS National Results here.
Who can take MATHCOUNTS
This competition is only for middle schoolers (unlike AMC 8 where elementary schoolers can also participate). There are 500 chapters in the US, and each middle school is assigned to a specific chapter.
Your school needs to register for this contest. You cannot register for this contest individually unless you are home-schooled. If your school doesn’t currently participate in MATHCOUNTS, you can request your math teachers or administrators to register for this prestigious competition.
Each school can register a maximum of 1 team of 4 students and 8 individuals (12 students total) to the Chapter competition. Most schools use the School level test to determine their top 12 students. Some schools use a series of tests throughout the year for that selection.
What is the competition
MATHCOUNTS competition has 4 different rounds:. There is no negative marking, so remember to put an answer for every problem (even if you have to guess) but since there are no answer choices, it is very hard to get any guesses correct.
Sprint Round: Individual round, 30 short answer questions in 40 minutes
Target Round: Individual round. Four sets of 2 questions each (8 questions total). Each set must be completed in 6 minutes. Calculators are allowed for this round. Any calculator (including graphing) is allowed unless it has a QWERTY keyboard
Team Round: 20 questions in 10 minutes. The entire team of 4 can work together on this round. Calculators are allowed for this round as well.
Note: According to MATHCOUNTS rules, students may use any calculator (including programmable and graphing calculators) that does not contain a QWERTY (typewriter‑like) keypad.
Countdown Round: This is an oral round where students go head to head against other students using a buzzer. This round focuses on speed and accuracy. Students have a maximum of 45 seconds per problem which they need to solve without a calculator. To get a better idea, please check YouTube videos for previous years Countdown Rounds from the National Competition.
Note: Countdown round is an unofficial fun round at the Chapter and State competitions, but this is used to decide the MATHCOUNTS winner at the National competition.
How to score high on MATHCOUNTS
How can you score well on the MATHCOUNTS exam? Here are four key things to focus on:
1. Understanding all the content: These contests go beyond the school curriculum so there's going to be a lot of new mathematical concepts to learn that are not typically covered in a school curriculum.
2. Practice problems to Improve Problem Solving Intuition: MATHCOUNTS and other math contests are designed to challenge the students and require creative thinking, that's something that you can only develop with lots of practice.
3. Increase Speed and Accuracy: The Sprint round requires solving 30 short answer problems in just 40 minutes, and most students have trouble finishing those questions. So it is critical to improve your problem solving speed to do well on the contest. There are many resources below which will help you in improving your speed and accuracy.
What are the best resources to prepare
Resources For Learning Concepts
1. MATHCOUNTS Handbooks: If you are taking the MATHCOUNTS at the School/Chapter level or you are new to competition math, then first go through the Handbooks that MATHCOUNTS creates every year. They are pretty comprehensive books with a lot of practice problems. Note that these handbooks are made available to your school teacher after registration. Alternatively you can buy the handbook. You may also be able to find the older handbooks online.
2. MATHCOUNTS Minis: Each MATHCOUNTS Mini video provides detailed explanations for at least one MATHCOUNTS problem and its associated concepts. Each Mini also features an activity sheet with practice problems for the discussed concepts.
3. Free AMC 8 Fundamentals Course: A free 10-class course that covers the most important concepts for middle school math competitions, and covers fundamental concepts like Casework, Complementary Counting, PIE, Finding Areas of irregular shapes, etc.
4. Free AMC 8 Advanced/MATHCOUNTS Course: If you have a good understanding of the fundamental concepts, this course explores harder concepts like Similar Triangles, Stars and Bars, Recursion, etc.
5. Free Mastering AMC 8 Book: This 400+ page hybrid book provides a comprehensive practice of the most important concepts, and includes video lectures for every chapter, formulas for every topic, and hundreds of examples and practice problems with detailed video solutions.
6. Competition Math for Middle School: The AoPS book is also a great resource for beginners.
Practice Material/Books from MATHCOUNTS
6. MATHCOUNTS Rounds: You can download the last year’s MATHCOUNTS rounds for School, Chapter, and State level from MATHCOUNTS website for free. You can also find the competition rounds from previous years at websites like this (2000-2017).
7. Practice Competitions for MATHCOUNTS: Volume 1: This is the first of two collections of 4 complete practice MATHCOUNTS competitions, including Sprint, Target and Team rounds. This book has over 190 problems, and contains a full, detailed solution for every problem.
8. Practice Competitions for MATHCOUNTS: Volume 2: This is the second of two collections of 4 complete practice MATHCOUNTS competitions, including Sprint, Target and Team rounds. This book has over 190 problems, and contains a full, detailed solution for every problem.
9. Electronic Countdown Rounds: For students who are interested in the Countdown round practice, these are the questions from Chapter, State and National Countdown Rounds provided digitally in PowerPoint format.
10. Volume 1 book by AoPS: For even more advanced students, the Volume 1 essentially provides a summary of the Introduction Series by AoPS, covering many important concepts.
11. Introduction series books from AoPS: For comprehensive books covering all subject areas in math, you should check out the "Introduction" series books from AoPS:
- Introduction to Algebra
12. The Most Challenging MATHCOUNTS Problems Solved: This book is ideal for coaching sessions with students who are eager to improve their problem-solving skills. The book contains the Sprint and Target Round problems from the 10 MATHCOUNTS National Competitions spanning 2001 through 2010. This also contains step-by-step solutions for every one of these 380 national level problems.
13. The Most Challenging MATHCOUNTS Problems Solved Volume 2: This book is ideal for coaching sessions with students who are eager to improve their problem-solving skills. The book contains the Sprint and Target Round problems from the 10 MATHCOUNTS National Competitions spanning 2011 through 2019. This also contains step-by-step solutions for every one of these 342 national level problems.
14. Greatest MATHCOUNTS Problems: This book contains the All-Time Greatest MATHCOUNTS Problems. This 80 page book is a collection of the best 150 problems (and solutions) from MATHCOUNTS State and National competitions.
15. The Three Year MATHCOUNTS Marathon: This is an excellent book but fairly advanced, so this is mainly recommended for students who are preparing for the State or National competitions. Includes many AIME + level problems.
16. MATHCOUNTS Practice Tests for STATE Competition: Volume 1
This book is for students who are preparing for the individual rounds of the MATHCOUNTS State competition. It contains four practice exams for MATHCOUNTS State Sprint and Target rounds with new problems not used in any past competitions and with insightful solutions.
17. Challenging Problems in Middle School Math
This is a good book for preparing for middle school competitions
18. MyMathcounts Books: This organization (not related to MATHCOUNTS) has created a number of books for preparation. You can also find their books on Amazon. Note: the quality of these books is not very high as they have a number of typos and mathematical errors.
For even more practice, there are a variety of websites which help you practice specific topics and improve problem solving speed.
1. Alcumus: Free resource by AoPS to practice problems from specific topics.
2. MATHCOUNTS Trainer: Four different levels of problems from MATHCOUNTS competitions. This trainer makes problem solving fun by giving you harder and harder problems as your rating increases.
3. For the Win: Practice speed and accuracy by playing head to head against other players to answer questions quickly
4. AMC Trivial: This site generates problems from past contests. You can even make custom mocks from older questions and it can give problems from specific topics or difficulty levels.
5. MAATester: This site makes it easy to search for problems related to any topic from various contests.
6. MATHCOUNTS Online Testing: This site makes it easy to search for MATHCOUNTS related problems related to any topic from various contests.
7. User Created Mock MATHCOUNTS: Mock MATHCOUNTS tests created by students.
By using these resources and practicing regularly, you can improve your skills and increase your chances of success on MATHCOUNTS.
What materials are allowed on the MATHCOUNTS contest
Pencils and paper will be provided for Mathletes by competition organizers. However, students may bring their own pencils, pens and erasers if they wish. They may not use their own scratch paper or graph paper.
Use of notes or other reference materials (including dictionaries and translation dictionaries) is prohibited.
Calculators are not permitted in the Sprint and Countdown Rounds, but they are permitted in the Target, Team and Tiebreaker (if needed) Rounds. Students may use any calculator (including programmable and graphing calculators) that does not contain a QWERTY (typewriter‑like) keypad. Calculators that have the ability to enter letters of the alphabet but do not have a keypad in a standard typewriter arrangement are acceptable.