What Do You Do If You Love Mathematics?
Nikhita Bhatt, from Cabin John Middle School, provides some excellent tips and resources for students who love math!
Mathematics is such a fascinating subject and is applicable in so many careers. Degrees like accounting, statistics, applied mathematics, computer science, and actuarial science all require math knowledge in order to be successful. It can be daunting to first approach mathematics, but with time, effort, and the right resources, it quickly becomes a life skill you can use in higher education, as well as a career.
There are several opportunities for middle and high school students to get involved in mathematics. There are quite a few introductory level math olympiads for middle schoolers. The first is MATHCOUNTS. MATHCOUNTS is a middle-school competition where students compete in several rounds with hopes of achieving a spot at the national competition. There’s a school, chapter, state, and national level. It consists of three events, sprint (30 questions 40 minutes), target (4 sets of 2 problems, with 6 minutes to complete each set), and team (10 questions with 20 minutes to solve with a team). In all of these rounds, students are forced to think creatively about problems under a time limit. The problems get harder as students get to higher rounds. Another great competition for middle schoolers is the AMC 8. The AMC 8 exam is a 25 question, 40 minute, multiple-choice math olympiad. It mimics the format of the AMC 10 and AMC 12 exams which are used to determine the US national math team. The AMC 8 is a fun experience, with introductory-level problems, so it’s a very accessible exam to take. Both of these competitions mostly focus on algebra 1, geometry, as well as introductory counting, probability, and number theory. They are usually easier versions of questions that are on high school math olympiads. Finally, local learning centers and schools usually hold math olympiads for middle school students, so make sure to keep an eye out for those if you are interested.
In high school, there are even more math competitions for interested students. The AMC 10 and 12 are the biggest ones. Both are 75-minute, 25-question multiple-choice tests. They are the first round of qualifying exams for the US math team. There are 2 AMC 10 exams annually where anyone in 10th grade and younger can join. There are also 2 AMC 12 exams annually where anyone still attending high school can attend. Another competition is the Harvard-MIT math competition, where teams from all over the country compete during a multi-day competition. Some other fun competitions include the American Regional Mathematics League, TrigStar, SCUDEM, and the Who Wants To Be A Mathematician competition.
Now, there are also many free resources available to make yourself familiar with math concepts. One of the best websites to learn about math is AOPS.com. They have an extensive archive of previous AMC, AIME, and USAMO problems all with detailed user-contributed solutions. Additionally, they have several other supplementary resources to reinforce math concepts. Their Alcumus trainer where students practice answering problems, where detailed solutions are offered, is a program that has subjects ranging from algebra to precalculus to number theory. Their MATHCOUNTS trainer is a good resource to prepare for the MATHCOUNTS competition by answering questions from previous olympiads. Mathisfun.com is a great website to learn many concepts. This includes geometry, and counting & probability to name a few. It’s easy to type in the search bar a concept you want to learn about and usually they’ll have a good explanation with some practice problems to learn. A similar website is Brilliant, which has an extensive math and science wiki dedicated to giving simple explanations for complicated concepts.
The best resource for math isn’t something in a book or online, it’s actively collaborating with others to solve problems. Working with peers has helped me learn so much about math. It has taught me other ways to solve problems, and new ways to think about topics. Even if you don’t know anyone interested in mathematics, no worries. There are several online forums to learn and discuss math. Web 2.0calc, AOPS forum, mathoverflow, and mathematics stack exchange, are all great websites to discuss problems with others.
Mathematical knowledge learned at an early age will prepare you for college, as math is needed in so many different fields. Cultivating an understanding of mathematics early, makes it easier for you to pursue math-related majors.