A little friendly math competition never hurts anyone, which is especially true for math. Children who participate in mathematics contests and competitions with other students their age can see some real benefits from their participation.
Math contests reinforce the math knowledge participants have already accumulated, teach them to problem-solve faster, and enjoy the camaraderie of working with a team in a collaborative environment.
Thanks to the cooperative nature of the study of mathematics, there are plenty of good-spirited contests for kids to join. Check out the list of the 15 best math competitions for students who want to test their knowledge against other enthusiasts, whether it’s online or in-person.
MAA American Mathematics Competitions
The Mathematical Association of America has been hosting competitions for children since 1950, starting with only 200 schools in the New York area and expanding to over 4,000 schools around the country today.
Through a series of American Mathematics Competitions, children from middle school all the way through undergraduates engage in a curriculum meant to encourage their problem-solving abilities in a friendly environment. Contest participants, and especially winners, receive an award and a nice accolade to list for future educational opportunities.
A wide variety of topics are covered through this competition by the Mathematical Association of America, including but not limited to probability, proportional reasoning, spatial visualization, and charts and graphs. Registrations are underway, and the competition is set for January, giving students a chance to start the new year off with a win.
Math League brings the spirit of competition to children in elementary, middle, and high schools around the globe. Through a massive network of state and international math competitions, Math League is available to thousands of students every year, starting at the third-grade level.
Schools that participate in Math League receive Problem Sets several times a year. Students who successfully solve the problem sets then have the opportunity to advance from the district national and even an international level contest.
In addition to these competitions, Math League has classes, workshops, and tutoring to supplement course materials of a standard curriculum.
Math Kangaroo Competition
Since 1998, Math Kangaroo has hosted annual international math competitions for children in grades 1-12. Every year, over 30,000 children prepare and participate in this competition with medals and prizes on the line, not the least of which is a chance at higher education grants.
What started as an in-person competition with travel costs and logistical concerns has changed to become a hybrid competition. The competition itself takes place in person, and the results of every classroom are submitted to Math Kangaroo for judging.
Math Kangaroo also hosts online classes and provides learning materials for students who would like to improve their skills outside of structured study at school. This can be useful in preparation for the next contest or to keep kids sharp during school breaks.
United States Academic Decathlon
The United States Academic Decathlon hosts educational competitions encompassing 10 distinct areas of study, with a contest specifically geared toward mathematics. This is a math competition for high school students, with teams comprised of 9 students from each school participating.
Teams compete on a state level to qualify for the nationals which are held annually at different locations across the United States. It’s a chance for participants from all corners of the U.S. to come together and compete and grow in their educational journey.
In addition to the mathematics component of the decathlon, children also compete in areas of arts, literature, music, science, and more. This culminates in the Super Quiz, with a live audience cheering on participants to the finish line.
Perennial Math provides online and in-person competitions annually to children grades 3-8. Competitions are held online at the local, state, and national levels through on-site learning with participating school classrooms.
Students get a variety of free practice materials to hone their skills before the competitions and the chance to win awards and a coveted spot on the Perennial Math Virtual Wall of Fame. First, second, and third-place winners at the state level can compete at the national level.
Perennial Math also offers virtual competitions with a maximum of 100 students that face off on their platform. Kids can enter these contests as individual players or as a team so anyone is welcome to participate.
Noetic Learning Math Contest
Noetic Learning holds its Math Contest semi-annually with sessions for elementary and middle school students in the fall and spring. These contests are meant to help children improve their critical thinking and problem-solving skills while engaged in a friendly competition.
The semi-annual schedule ensures that teams and individuals will have opportunities twice a year to register for the contests. This allows the maximum number of students to join, with as many as 30,000 enrolled per session.
Awards are given to individuals and teams based on their overall performance according to Noetic Learning. Medals are awarded to the highest scorers in each team and to the top 10% of teams nationally.
Sumdog Math Contests
Sumdog gives students across the country the chance to compete through its online platform. This is an opportunity that over 48,000 classes take advantage of every year and one that is easy to sign up for.
Kids 5-14 can use a computer or smartphone to join contests whether in school or at home, giving them a chance to participate throughout the year. Once a class is registered, Sumdog lets all students play and earn rewards through a fun game that teaches math and aligns with Common Core standards for K-8.
Students go on a personalized math journey as Sumdog’s software adapts to ask questions that can challenge and are aimed at increasing math competency.
Math Counts is more than just a math competition. It’s a national math club that encourages students between 6th and 8th grades to consider mathematics as a real track to a successful future. This is accomplished through a series of unique games, explorations, problem sets, and monthly challenges.
There is an annual competition with clubs from all 50 states going head to head for titles, accolades, and even cash prizes for the best of the best. All the resources needed to register, prepare, and compete are included when clubs form and sign up through the website.
Clubs are available all across the country, and if there isn’t one close, it’s easy to establish a club with or without affiliation from a sponsor school.
HMMT is a student-organized group that seeks to encourage interest in math by reaching beyond traditional math curriculums through friendly competition. It’s a contest that has been put together by graduates of universities like Harvard and MIT to reflect the ever-evolving landscape of mathematics.
The tournament happens twice yearly, posing 36 problems to teams of 4-8 high school students. It’s great for those who are leaders among their classmates and have shown a strong grasp of advanced-level math including algebra, geometry, and combinatorics.
Participation in the HMMT Tournament involves an application and selection process. Individuals and teams can apply on their website twice a year.
International Mathematical Olympiad Foundation
The International Mathematical Olympiad Foundation has been around since 1959 and includes representatives from over 100 countries. The goal of the organization is to bring the children of the world together to engage in the challenges of mathematics.
This is an exclusive, top-tier, world-class competition, with only around 600 total competitors every year representing the 100 nations in the foundation. In order to attend, students must be the best of the best in their country and pass a series of increasingly difficult tests.
The reward for attending such an event is international recognition for the achievement and a truly impressive line item on any admissions application.
International Youth Math Challenge
Since 2018, over 12,500 students have participated in the International Youth Math Challenge for a chance to win awards and cash prizes. High school and college students are welcome to join the annual qualification round in the fall.
After successful completion of this round, students are invited to take part in the pre-final and final rounds, with competition and awards to follow shortly after. There are awards available to individuals, participating schools, the top-ranking prospects of each country, and international champions.
Problems for this competition are tiered according to the age of the student accepting the challenge. In general, students can expect to use their creative thinking and problem-solving abilities to tackle questions of algebra, geometry, and more advanced areas such as calculus.
Bee Star Math Competition
Bee Star Math Competition is designed to bring elementary students and middle school students together in a supportive environment to learn and explore new problems to test themselves as individuals and as a team.
The Bee Star Math competition is open to all students between grades 2-8, and there are two contests a year. Individuals and classrooms are welcome to register. Top-scoring students receive a front-page feature on the website among the ranks of other high-achieving peers.
This is an online math competition that takes place over the course of several days, giving students ample time to solve the assigned challenges. After two rounds totaling 60 questions, kids will have the chance to see their scores, percentiles, and the statistical data for the overall contest.
MathWorks Math Modeling Challenge
The MathWorks Math Modeling Challenge, or M3C, is a free math contest aimed at students in their junior or senior year of high school. It’s also open to students in England and Wales.
It’s different than many other contests because the problem is baked on real-world implications that currently require a creative solution. High school students can learn a lot from implementing the skills they learn in their high school curriculum to come up with a real-world solution.
Students join groups of 3-5 peers and use applied mathematics to come up with a proposed solution to a problem before presenting their findings for review. The students who come up with the best solution are awarded scholarship prizes that can exceed $100,000.
Pi Math Contest
Pi Math Contest is open to students of all ages from elementary to high school. Contests are broken down into three divisions by age group and cover problems appropriate for students of each division.
They feature counting, geometry, and number theory problems for youngsters in elementary school. Algebra problems are added for the middle schoolers, and the most advanced problems in all of these categories go to the high schoolers.
Winners in their respective divisions receive coupons to AlphaStar Academy, a site dedicated to helping children compete and win in their mathematics journey. There are prizes for the top 180 students overall making it a strong possibility that your child can place high enough to be among these ranks.
USA Mathematical Talent Search
The USA Mathematical Talent Search is a free-to-enter unique competition for middle and high school students in the United States.
Traditional math competitions are short, with timed problems solved over the course of just a few days. The USAMTS gives students one month to come up with the most complete possible solution for five assigned problems.
Students who perform in the top 45% against their peers gain the opportunity for prizes including mathematics books, t-shirts, and Wolfram software subscriptions. As an added bonus, the USAMTS is an accepted way to qualify for the American Invitational Mathematics Exam, a prestigious exam that has been a standard in academic circles since 1983.