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North American Math Competitions

Updated: Oct 12, 2020

October 11, 2020

Competitions are signs of going above and beyond, a for-sure way to make your college application stand out from everyone else's. They test your patience, your skill, your dedication, and your perseverance. Seeing as almost everyone has participated in a competition, one way or another, we'll tell you about one of the most popular academic competitions: North American Math competitions.

*Note: Significance/difficulty rankings are out of 5, where 5 is the most weighted/difficult.

Mathematics is not about numbers, equations, computations, or algorithms: it is about understanding.

- William Paul Thurston

1. The American Mathematics Competitions (AMC)

Significance: 5/5

Difficulty: 3/5

Prerequisites: None

Test dates: AMC 8 in November, and the AMC 10/12 in February every year.

Who can participate:

AMC 8: Anyone in 8th grade or below

AMC 10: Anyone in 10th grade or below

AMC 12: Anyone in 12th grade or below

The American Mathematics Competition, AMC, is definitely the most mainstream math competition in the United States. In fact, it is, by far, the most well-known and authoritative math test in the world. If you want to wow colleges with an impressive score in a math competition, this is definitely the way to go. Organized by the Mathematical Association of America (MAA), it targets US middle and high school students but is open to most students. The MAA goal is for young Americans to think "Ok, maybe math isn't so bad after all!"

Of course, creating the test is no small feat. A committee of scholars (from MIT, Harvard, Princeton, and other prestigious schools) is in charge of the entire process, from subject research, to question design and development, to final competition scoring. They not only test the top math talents in the country but also help colleges accurately gauge your academic achievement and performance in mathematical subjects. In fact, the USA's Math International Olympiad (IMO) team chooses its members from the top-scoring students in the AMC.

AMC questions range from easy to extremely difficult, ensuring a challenge for students of all levels. You'll be tested on a broad range of subjects, including probability, geometry, number theory, and arithmetic. In fact, both government and private organizations use AMC questions as a part of their official educational curriculum.

It is important to note that AMC 8 does not have any advancement opportunities. AMC 10 and AMC 12, on the other hand, are the first rounds of many in the US Olympic Math Competition series. If you perform well on the AMC 10/12, you will get a special invitation to participate in AIME, the next level. So if you're taking the AMC 10 or AMC 12, buckle in for a long ride!

2. The American Invitational Mathematics Examination (AIME)

Significance: 5/5

Difficulty: 4/5

Prerequisites: Invitation to participate based on AMC scores

Test dates: AIME is twice in March, but students can only choose one day to participate.

Who can participate: Students with an AIME invitation

AIME only allows the best math students to participate (if you score in the top 2.5% or get at least a 120 on AMC 10, or you score in the top 5% or get at least 100 on AMC 12). It carries extraordinary weight in college applications, so give yourself a good pat on the back if you are invited. In fact, if you apply to MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), Cal Tech (California Institute of Technology), or any other prestigious US STEM schools, you'll be asked for your AIME score. Pretty important after all, huh?

But, of course, AIME is not the final round. AIME's top-performing US students are invited to another bout of elimination: the USA Junior Mathematical Olympiad (USAJMO) and the USA Mathematical Olympiad (USAMO). From here, students will be selected to be a member of the US IMO team, where they will then compete against students from other countries. If you can get this far... wow. Like, really wow.

Anyways, that marks the end of today's math competition series. More to come so stay tuned!

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