• Article

Making the most of maths competitions

Maths competitions can be a great way to broaden students’ mathematical horizon – get the dates in the school diary early!

Making the most of maths competitions
  • Published: 09/07/2019

Not everybody enjoys the challenge of a competition, but some pupils thrive on the opportunity to test their skills in a broader field. The sort of competition appropriate might depend on the personalities and age of your students so here we give an overview.

Material from past competitions is often freely available, which can be great for using with your classes – working collaboratively or competitively, in groups or individually. They often offer something quite different to the sort of questions we are used to using in school maths.

Also look out for local competitions run for school students by universities near you.

In a blog post from 2018, our director, Charlie Stripp, argues that maths competitions can motivate all students, not just the 'brightest'.

We've given details of individual competitions below, including some sample questions. Please check their websites for full, up-to-date details.

Maths competitions on offer 2019/20

Question paper of 20 questions in 45 minutes, starting easy and getting harder

Website
http://www.primarymathschallenge.org.uk/fmc

Organisers
Mathematical Association

Audience
Years 3 and 4

Individual or team
Individual

Marked by
School

Follow-on rounds
No

Description
Question paper of 20 questions in 45 minutes, starting easy and getting harder

When
Any time within a three-week period in June 2020

Where
At your school

Cost
£10 + VAT and postage for ten papers

Availability of past materials
Not yet known – this was a new challenge in 2019

Sample questions

Question paper of 25 questions (10 easy, 20 multiple choice) in 45 minutes

Website

http://www.primarymathschallenge.org.uk/

Organisers
Mathematical Association

Audience
All Year 5 and Year 6 pupils

Individual or team
Individual

Marked by
School

Follow-on rounds
Yes, for high-scorers

Description
Question paper of 25 questions (10 easy, 20 multiple choice) in 45 minutes

When
11–15 November 2019

Where
At your school

Cost
£9.60 for ten papers; order before 11 October for early-bird discount

Availability of past materials
Yes – on the competition website

Sample questions

(JMC: Years 7 and 8; IMC: Years 9–11; SMC: Years 12 and 13)

Multiple-choice question papers of 25 questions

Website
Junior (JMC): https://www.ukmt.org.uk/individual-competitions/junior-challenge/

Intermediate (IMC): https://www.ukmt.org.uk/individual-competitions/intermediate-challenge/

Senior (SMC): https://www.ukmt.org.uk/individual-competitions/senior-challenge/

Organisers
United Kingdom Mathematics Trust (UKMT)

Audience
JMC: Years 7 and 8; IMC: Years 9–11; SMC: Years 12 and 13

Individual or team
Individual

Marked by
UKMT

Follow-on rounds
Yes

Description
Multiple-choice question papers of 25 questions

When
JMC: 30 April 2020; IMC: 6 February 2020; SMC: 7 November 2019

Where
At your school/college

Cost
£13 per ten entries

Availability of past materials
Yes, plenty, and teachers are encouraged to use them:

Sample questions:

(Team Challenges are for Years 8 and 9; there is also a Senior Team Maths Challenge aimed at A level students) Four rounds of various formats, involving teamwork skills

Website
https://www.ukmt.org.uk/team-challenges/ and https://www.ukmt.org.uk/team-challenges/senior-team-challenge/

Organisers
Team Challenges: United Kingdom Mathematics Trust (UKMT); Senior Team Challenges: Advanced Mathematics Support Programme (AMSP)

Audience
Team Challenges are for Years 8 and 9; there is also a Senior Team Maths Challenge aimed at A level students

Individual or team
Team

Marked by
Supervising teachers at the event

Follow-on rounds
Materials are provided for schools to run their own Team Challenge. They then enter a team of four for the Regional Finals; National Finals follow

Description
Four rounds of various formats, involving teamwork skills

When
Dates not yet available for 2020

Where
Various locations around the country

Cost
£37 for team entry to Regional Finals (one team per school/college)

Availability of past materials

Points can be earned by cracking each code and submitting your answer. The leaderboard keeps track of how well each team is doing

Website
https://www.maths.manchester.ac.uk/cryptography_competition/

Organisers
University of Manchester School of Mathematics

Audience
Year 7–Year 11

Individual or team
Teams of four (can also join existing teams looking for members)

Marked by
n/a

Follow-on rounds
No

Description
Points can be earned by cracking each code and submitting your answer. The leaderboard keeps track of how well each team is doing

When
Dates not yet available for 2020

Where
At your school

Cost
Free

Availability of past materials
All previous materials on competition website

Sample question

Three-hour challenge. Several rounds, focused on teamwork, communication and problem solving

Website
https://amsp.org.uk/events/maths-feast

Organisers
Advanced Mathematics Support Programme

Audience
Year 10 students

Individual or team
Teams of four

Marked by
Marked at event

Follow-on rounds
No

Description
Three-hour challenge. Several rounds, focused on teamwork, communication and problem solving

When
February–May 2020

Where
Venues across England

Cost
Free

Availability of past materials
Previous materials available on the Maths Feast website

Sample questions

25 questions released over ten weeks in autumn, which give clues to a final multi-part question

Website
https://integralmaths.org/ritangle/

Organisers
MEI

Audience
A level and IB maths students

Individual or team
Teams of any size

Marked by
Final solution submitted by email for marking

Follow-on rounds
No. The winning team is the first to submit completely correct answers

Description
25 questions released over ten weeks in autumn, which give clues to a final multi-part question

When
Starts 7 October 2019

Where
At your school/college

Cost
Free

Availability of past materials
Previous questions available on the @Integral_Maths Twitter account

Sample question

Two puzzles are released every two weeks for eight weeks. Answers submitted as the competition proceeds, so you can see your progress

Website
https://www.maths.manchester.ac.uk/mathsbombe/

Organisers
University of Manchester School of Mathematics

Audience
Up to and including Year 13 students

Individual or team
Teams of four (can also join existing teams looking for members)

Marked by
Submitted online

Follow-on rounds
No

Description
Two puzzles are released every two weeks for eight weeks. Answers submitted as the competition proceeds, so you can see your progress

When
Dates not yet available for 2020

Where
At your school

Cost
Free

Availability of past materials
All previous materials on competition website

Sample question

Ten code-breaking challenges published weekly, with a week to submit solutions

Website
https://www.cipherchallenge.org/

Organisers
University of Southampton School of Mathematical Sciences

Audience
Sixth formers, although earlier rounds are suitable for keen students age 11+ (this can get them hooked for later years!)

Individual or team
Individual or teams of any size

Marked by
Submitted weekly online

Follow-on rounds
No

Description
Ten code-breaking challenges published weekly, with a week to submit solutions

When
19 September – 2 January 2020

Where
At your school/college or at home

Cost
Free

Availability of past materials
PowerPoints on cryptography, and beginner's guide to codebreaking

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