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Other Math Competitions (High School)

  1. Apr 19, 2016 #1
    Hello everyone!

    Firstly, I couldn't find a thread on my exact question elsewhere on these forums even after using the search feature, so if there is one that was previously posted please point me in the right direction.

    Secondly, I want to say that I am not against having math competitions in any way, in fact I find them fun and can occasionally do well in them.

    My question stems from the fact that in high school (at least mine) math competitions are used as one of the primary ways to judge a student's mathematical ability. I find this a bit strange, especially since much of the emphasis seems to be on tricks, memorization, and speed in these competitions but not on reasoning, proof, and precision. I've also seen posted elsewhere on these forums that the competitions are the exact opposite of what mathematical research is like.

    So my question is: why are these competitions so heavily emphasized in high school?
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 19, 2016 #2
    They aren't required, and are in theory only there for fun (as I said earlier, I find them enjoyable and do them for fun). But at least at my school they are used as an implied judge of a student's mathematical ability (at least for those who are already doing well in their math classes) and from my understanding they are emphasized in college admissions as well (I can't say to what extent as I'm only a sophmore and haven't looked too deeply at many applications).

    My question arises from the fact that while math competitions are widespread, there is a lack of emphasis on mathematical proof and reasoning. I suppose it boils down to math "theory" v.s. math "problem solving". And although these two areas certainly overlap in many ways, it is curious to me that high school seems to put emphasis solely on the latter.

    I just realized something...I am forgetting that it is not only future math/hard science majors who are in these competions and also in high school. I assume most fields require more of the "problem solving" and hence it is emphasized in high school to make it more applicable to everyone? That seems to get closer to an answer, but still doesn't resolve why math competitions are the chosen criterion for testing mathematical ability beyond the courses in school.
  4. Apr 20, 2016 #3
    Using these competitions as a test for students' math ability seems unusual. In my high school, we were encouraged but not required to take the test, and got a couple extra credit points if we did well on them, but that was it. There was no mention of them in regards to college admissions at all. I don't think colleges could see my scores and I didn't mention them on the application. Does your school offer any incentives to do well on these tests, like placement into a higher math class?
    We didn't have any kind of extra preparation for the competitions beyond what was covered normally in math class. Do your math classes cover any of the tricks you can use to get better at them?
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