Culture of Math Contests

My school does not have a culture of math contests. But I’m on a mission to change that.

This year we signed up for the New York Math League contests, which actually seem to be getting a dedicated small set of students taking them. (I think the biggest problem with getting a sizable number of students in our  school to take these contests is that our kids are so busy that not many kids can take the exam after school on the day we administer it. They have sports and other commitments.)

However I’ve taken it upon myself to make a huge push to have more students take the AMC 10/ AMC 12 math contests this year. How?

  • I’ve spoken individually to the other 6 math teachers about speaking to their classes about the contest, and I gave them some sample problems to give their kids if they want more information. I’ve convinced a few to offer some incentive for their kids if they take the exam (example: I’m giving extra credit, which I almost never offer, and another teacher is giving a homework pass).
  • The math club student leaders are making a facebook group (their idea!).
  • I’m having students “register” for the contest (basically fill in the blank on a sheet which says “My name is _________, I am in the ____ grade, and I am awesome because I am going to take the AMC!”). I’m going to use this list of students to send a reminder email to the kids. I’m also going to send a letter to their parents explaining the contest, and why we in the math department are really happy that their kid is going to take it. Basically, I want to get the word out to as many people about the contest, in a few different ways.
  • I’m trying to get some money so we can order  pizza for the kids after they take the exam.

I think last year we had 10 or 15 students who took the exam. I really want to ramp it up this year. And if we can do this for a few years, we might be able to develop a culture where taking the AMC is a “normal” thing to do — where kids in the accelerated track all want to take it and interested kids in the regular track are encouraged to take it. I’m trying to slowly and consciously engineer a shift in school culture. It’s hard to figure out how one can create a culture shift.And I know, it’s a really small culture shift, but in my opinion, it’s really important for our department and for our kids.



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