The competitions in the MATHCOUNTS programs are challenging, fun, and motivating. After several months of preparation, the students finally get to match wits with each other, in the nation's premier math competition series.
Competitions take place at several levels, starting with the School Competition in January at OIS. The top ten students will then advance to the Chapter Competition, held on a Saturday morning in late February in Pleasanton. Of these ten students, four will comprise the official OIS team; the other six will compete as individuals.
The top teams--usually 2-4 of them--at Chapter, and possibly some individuals, are invited to the State Competition in late March, which is held concurrently at two locations in Southern and Northen California. The top four students at State will represent California at the National Competition in May; in 2015, Nationals will be in Boston.
So how does a competition work? There are several events, each with a different format.
The first event is called the Sprint Round. This is a 40-minute, 30-question test for students to complete individually. Calculators are not permitted. Each question is worth 1 point.
The Target Round is next, with 8 problems given in pairs. Six minutes are allowed for each pair of problems, and calculators are allowed. These problems are typically more involved than Sprint problems, and they are each worth 2 points. A student's individual score is the sum of his Sprint and Target scores.
The Team Round consists of 10 problems. Students work in teams of four, with calculators and a time limit of 20 minutes. The team's score is figured as the average of the four individual scores, plus twice the number of correct Team Round problems.
The Countdown Round, sometimes done just for fun and sometimes to determine an overall winner, is generally open only to the top individuals, but spectators are welcome. The Round is a fast-paced, oral competition resembling a game show. Contestants are allowed to use pencil and paper, but not calculators, as they compete against each other and the clock in a single-elimination tournament.