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A mathematics competition for 7th and 8th grade students in the United States. MathCounts begins with small local contests, and the winners of these contests then go to state-level contests, and finally these winners go to a national contest where winners get scholarship prizes and usually make the national news.

I was a national level competitor in MathCounts in 7th grade. I was one of the four Maine Team members, along with three 8th graders, one of whom was freakishly good at math. His dad was the team coach.

Between the state finals and the national meet, I had to go up to Presque Isle (a town waaay up in the north of the state) one morning to attend an all-day practice session of sorts. I lived through it.

The national meet itself was held in Washington, DC. We flew down there and stayed in a four-star hotel for the three days of the meet weekend, all expenses paid by MathCounts. It was fairly uneventful, except that the kid who was freakishly good at math pretty much spent the three days throwing things out the window, punching holes in the wall, breaking things, etc.

Finally we actually the math bit. I did OK -- I probably could have done better if I hadn't stayed up most of the night watching HBO, but I've never had cable at home, so the temptation was too great (I also wasn't allowed to watch R movies at the time.. don't tell my parents!) Also, being vegetarian, food was questionably plentifully but I digress. The freaky-good math kid got 7th overall, if I recall correctly.

Everyone who got to the national level also received a TI-92, which is an extremely sweet graphing calculator (with a little QWERTY keyboard)! It has been a valuable asset in the numerous math related circumstances I frequently find myself in.

I consider it pretty sweet that I got an all expenses paid trip to our nation's capital, AND a neat techno toy just for knowing a little math. Plus, every time you pull out the TI-92 you get to tell the story (often this is in the form of "Woah! How much did that thing cost?!" "I got it for free, cause I'm such a l33t math hax0r!...").

Mathcounts is a math competition for sixth through eighth graders. It is held at four levels of competition: School, Chapter(Region), State, and National.

School Level

At the school level, the team members compete against one another. The players with the four highest scores are made the team and the next four make up the alternate members. The alternate members compete at the chapter competition, but they don't compete as a team, despite what some chapters wrongly do. The only rounds utilized in the School competition are the Sprint and Target rounds(the individual rounds). This level of the competition has the easiest questions of all the competitions.

Chapter Level

The Chapter competition is held at a neutral site, frequently at colleges. At this level, the team round is also used, and some chapters use the Countdown and Masters rounds. What happens at this level is that the competitors are all removed from everyone else for the most part, and they are given the sprint and target rounds. Then, they let the teams get together and they have the team round. After that, it's just the awards, unless they have a Countdown round or Masters round. The scoring for the teams is done by averaging the four individual scores, and then adding the team round score. It varies from chapter to chapter how many advance to the state competition, but, at the least, 1 team and 2 individuals can advance. If the individuals are also on the team, then this is irrelevant, as they would advance anyways. This level of competition has harder questions than the School level.

State Level

The State Competition is normally held at a nice hotel. In most states, with websites of the competition, they take pictures of the competitors and coaches the first night, when there is no competition. The next morning is the actual competition. It is the same as the chapter competition, although more states have the Countdown and Masters rounds. The top 4 individuals are made the all-star team for the state, and the championship teams coach becomes the coach for the team of all-stars, even if no one on from their team is on the team. Here, the questions are still harder, and they have some strange ones, too.

National Level

The National competition is quite interesting, but, this year it is being held in Chicago, instead of Washington, D.C. Because of this, I'm not sure eactly what they are going to do. In the past, you get lots of sightseeing tours, and the competition is a bit of an afterthought. This year(according to my former coach) it is being held at Chicago University. Also, in the past, they gave out sizable scholarships to the top finishers. But, since they moved it to Chicago for monetary purposes, they might be cut back. At the nationals, every round is used. Here are the hardest questions of them all.

And here are all the different kinds of rounds.
The Sprint Round

The sprint round is, as the name implies, based on speed. There are thirty questions, for which you get 40 minutes to complete. In this round you can't use calculators, but they normally aren't useful. A common kind of question in this round regards the pythagorean theorem or patterns in exponents.

The Target Round

The Target Round consists of 4 sets of two questions each. You are given 6 minutes for each set, and the questions get progressively more challenging. Here, you can use calculators, and they are quite useful here. Frequently questions here have to be expressed in terms of pi.

The Team Round

The Team Round is very straightforward. The team works together, and they are given 20 minutes to solve 10 problems. The questions are very similar to those of the target round, just more difficult.

The Countdown Round

The Countdown round is a very fun round. The top finishers in the individual rounds are the only people who compete. Two people are called up at a time, and a question is flashed up on a screen. The competitors cannot use calculators, and are only given 45 seconds for each question. After three questions, the person with the most correct advances to the next round, and the loser does not. Most of the questions in this round are based on speed.

The Masters Round

The Masters Round is similar to the countdown round, in the sense that it is exclusive to the top finishers. Normally there aren't any awards associated with this round, it's just for fun. They give the top finishers(masters) a question, they get 5 minutes to work it out, then they present a solution the succeeds in perplexing everyone watching. Very fun stuff.

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