Mastering the STEM Math Olympiad and other Math Competitions

The Math Olympiad is a math problem solving competition designed to feed student’s love of math. Other goals of the competition are to introduce important math concepts and to encourage creativity and flexibility in problem solving. Most of all, the point is to love math and have fun doing it. The Math Olympiad was created in 1977 by a math educator named Dr. George Lenchner. In any given year, almost 170,000 students participate. These students are from all 50 states and 30 other countries. In today’s competitions, schools or homeschool associations can enter teams of up to 35 students. Each team can compete in just one division. Those divisions are for grades 4-6 and 6-8. Being selected for a team can be as easy as signing up with a teacher. As students get older, the selection process may involve taking a test for team placement.

The Math Olympiad includes various mathematical topics, including number theory and combinatorics. Combinatorics can be almost anything in mathematics, such as algebra, arithmetic or geometry. Participants in the Math Olympiad can win awards based on individual and team performance. Everyone who participates receives a Certificate of Participation. Each team’s high scoring member receives trophy. Other awards include, silver and gold pins, plaques and embroidered patches.

How to Prepare and Study for the Math Olympiad

To prepare for the Math Olympiad, students need to practice, practice, practice, and practice some more. Students preparing for a math contest such as the STEM Math Olympiad need to know what kind of math concepts to know and practice. Fundamental math skills, such as addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division should be strong and quick so that test time isn’t spent trying to recall them. Olympians also need to practice higher level math skill such as algebra. Finally, problem solving skills should be refined and practiced. Just like an athlete prepares for a game or math by practicing their sport, a math contest participant must do the same.

  • How to Tackle Math Olympiad Questions – This article on provides helpful hints on how to handle the problems on the Math Olympiad including when to skip a problem and how to go back to it.
  • Sample Contest Problems -This Math League website offers sample contests for a variety of grades. Just click your grade and you will get a sheet of practice problems. The solutions are also provided so you can check your work.
  • Help Children Build Math Problem Solving Techniques -This article from Hudson Valley Parent gives parents a guide to help them improve their children’s math problem solving skills.
  • Problem Solving By Making a List -This article explains how to use list making as a math problem solving strategy.
  • The Math Forum Problem of the Week -This site offers weekly math challenges for students at any level. Full written solutions are expected. This helps students understand their strategy and thinking process. An archive of past problems is also available.
  • Cliff’s Notes -Cliff’s Notes aren’t just for helping to understand novels. The website also provides study guides for a variety of math topics, many of which are in the Math Olympiad and other math contests.
  • Wyzant -This site has sections for different math topics. Each section features lessons and practice problems.
  • Paul’s Online Math Notes -Paul’s Online Math Notes provides a list of notes and tutorials for various math topics such as Algebra and Geometry. The site is operated by a math instructor from Lamar University.
  • IXL Math -This site offers math practice divided by age and then sub divided by math concept. IXL incorporates engaging, real life situations into their practice problems.
  • Analyze Math -Problems for grades 6-9 help middle school students understand and practice math concepts. Answers are provided for students who wish to quiz themselves.
  • Math Play -This site offers math games to help middle school students practice math skills in a fun, engaging way.
  • Online Math Worksheets -A large collection of math tests on various topics and at various levels provides a source for practice in solving and testing.
  • Soft Schools -Exercise your math skills with math quizzes. The site breaks the quizzes down into categories according to grade level and math skill. The quizzes are taken online and provide a list of correct and correct answers at the end.

Other Math Competitions

Math competitions are a fun way to practice, refine, and show off one’s math skills. They bring together students from a variety of places and backgrounds. Math is a subject that creates a shared language even when participants may speak different ones. Math competitions combine the fun of math and the fun of sport into one activity.

  • American Mathematics Competitions -This is a large middle school math competition that is taken within the individual schools.
  • American Scholastic Mathematics Association -American middle, junior and senior high school students can compete nationally with other high performing students.
  • Game a Thon -This national competition challenges students to design a math problem solving game.
  • MATHCOUNTS -MATHCOUNTS is a national program for middle school students that encourages math achievement using “bee” style competitions.
  • Math Bee -The Math Bee is a math competition run by the North South Foundation. This competition is for students in grades K-8 who are of Indian origin.
  • The Math League -The Math League’s middle school contests provide an opportunity for interschool competition.
  • Noetic Learning Math Contest -This semiannual problem solving competition for students in grades 2-8 provides an opportunity for practice and encouragement in problem solving skills.
  • Perennial Math -Perennial Math offers online and on site math competitions for students in grades 3-12.
  • USA Mathematical Talent Search -This competition for middle and high school students sets itself apart from others in that participants have a month to solve the problems.
  • Rocket City Math League -Rocket City Math League is a one-year long competition for middle and high school students. It is a student run, international program.
  • American Regions Mathematics League -This competition is primarily for high school students, but exceptional middle school and junior high school participants are welcomed.
  • Continental Mathematics League -The Continental Mathematics League offers math competitions for students in grades 2-9.
  • Crazy 4 Math Contest -Crazy 4 Math offers and online contest for elementary and middle school students.
  • Sumdog -Sumdog offers online math contests. The questions adapt to a student’s level of achievement intuitively.
  • MathCon -MathCon offers an online contest for students in grades 5-12.
  • Global Math Challenge -Global Math Challenge is an international math competition that uses brain teasers to stimulate logic and creative thinking and problem solving.
  • The Mandelbrot Competition -The Mandelbrot Competition has been in existence for over twenty five years. The competition is open to middle and high school students in the USA and around the world. The competition provides a motivating way to improve problem solving.