Math Competitions for Gifted Students

Many gifted children and teens have a natural aptitude in math, but many parents and teachers of high ability math learners find that it can be a challenge to keep these children and teens engaged and excited about math. Gifted math students who are often light years ahead of the standard curriculum can find themselves bored and increasingly disinterested in math as the years tick by. Elementary and Junior high school students are particularly at risk for developing a poor self perception of their learning abilities in math, so it’s critical for us to protect and nurture this fundamental academic and life skill.

Regardless of whether you are fortunate enough to be the teacher in a differentiated learning environment, a teacher of one or a handful of high ability learners, or a homeschooling parent — keeping math exciting and fun can be a challenge. So, when kids are academically and psychologically ready to “move on” in math, but the schools don’t offer acceleration or differentiated curriculum (as is often the case at the elementary level), what can parents and teachers do to keep these kids motivated?

Math Contests For Gifted Children

Teachers, parents, homeschoolers, and educators of gifted children can enhance the math curriculum, and engage kids on a new level by participating in fun math competitions. Gifted classrooms with children as young as 1st and 2nd grade, all the way up through high school have many options to compete nationally, and even internationally, with equally talented peers.

One key benefit of participation in national and international math contests is that kids from New York to Hong Kong to Ash Fork, Arizona can connect with global peers, and engage in the common pursuit of MATH!

Math Competitions for Elementary, Middle School, and High School

Following is a list of some of the top math contests in the United States and Internationally. Some are free, some have a fee. By no means is this an all-inclusive list, and there are many more regional competitions that are not listed here.

Do not worry about your difficulties in Mathematics. I can assure you mine are still greater. — Albert Einstein

The American Mathematics Competition (the AMC 8) is an exam for students in grades 8 and below, administered annually by the American Mathematics Competitions (AMC) to students all over the United States. For more than 60 years, students across the country have taken up the challenge of America‚Äôs longest-running and most prestigious math contest, The American Mathematics Competition (AMC). Children as young as 8 years old have participated in this competition, and the Mathematical Association of America encourages all students in grades 6, 7, and 8 to participate in the AMC 8.

The American Mathematics Competition (the AMC 10/12) is an exam for high school students. A special purpose of the AMC 10/12 is to help identify those few students with truly exceptional mathematics talent. Students who are among the very best deserve some indication of how they stand relative to other students in the country and around the world.

Caribou Cup is an international online math competition that is held 6 times annually. Students can participate in 7 grade levels (K-1, 2, 3-4, 7-8, 9-10, and 11-12).

Harvard/MIT Mathematics Tournament (HMMT)

Founded in 1998, HMMT is one of the largest and most prestigious high school competitions in the world. Each tournament draws close to 1000 students from around the globe, including top scorers at national and international olympiads. HMMT is entirely student-organized, by students at Harvard, MIT, and nearby schools, many of whom are HMMT alumni themselves.

The International Mathematical Olympiad Foundation runs is an international competition for high school students which has been running annually since 1959 and now has over 100 countries competing, including all members of the G20.

Math Kangaroo is an international math competition for children in grades 1-12 and takes place annually on the third Thursday in March. Winners can be featured on the website, win medals, gifts, and even academic scholarships! Every child gets a t-shirt, certificate of participation, and gift on test day. What a great way to encourage a love of math in all kids.

Math League offers a number of services focused on enhancing the quality and quantity of competitive mathematical opportunities available to students everywhere. A variety of programs are available for students in grades 4-12. 

The Noetic Learning Math Contest (NLMC) is a semiannual problem solving contest for elementary and middle school students (2nd – 6th grades). It’s a fun and interesting contest for way for parents and teachers of younger gifted children to help differentiate math and compete nationally with other high-achieving kids, and get national recognition. Kids’ names are listed on the website (or they can be listed anonymously), and making the “National Honor Roll” in math is a big achievement for elementary school kids! Gifted K-1 students can compete at the 2nd grade level. 

MATHCOUNTS Competition Series is a middle school math competition for students enrolled in 6th, 7th, and 8th grades. MATHCOUNTS is a live, in-person event that is held in all 50 states s well as U.S. territories and schools worldwide through the U.S. Department of Defense and State Department. Competitions take place in over 500 local chapters.

Ole Miss School of Education Math Contest is a project that includes a daily math challenges, elementary brain teaser, and middle school tournaments. Create custom leaderboards and win prizes!

Perennial Math offers online competitions, onsite tournaments, and virtual tournaments for math students in grades 3-12.

Pi Math Contest (PiMC) is an annual math competition for elementary, middle school students. Students can participate as individuals.

The United States Academic Decathalon (USAD) is a ten-event scholastic competition for teams of high school students.

The USA Mathematical Talent Search is a free mathematics competition open to all United States middle and high school students. The USAMTS allows students a full month or more to work out their solutions. With permission, USAMTS participant’s names and addresses are provided to colleges, universities, and employers for recruitment purposes.