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  • Writer's pictureAndrew Suh

A Math Competition for Anybody

For many students, standing out in a crowd of millions of students aspiring for greatness is quite difficult. The many academic competitions seem too difficult and available only to talented students; however, that is not the case for the American Mathematics Competition.

The American Mathematics Competition, or AMC for short, is the first of a series of mathematics competitions that determines the USA’s team for the International Mathematics Olympiad. As the top mathematics competition in the country, it may seem menacing at first, but as a first-time competitor, I can say that it was a great experience that I hope others can experience as well.

The main objective for a contestant is, excluding the highest score possible, the chance to qualify for the AIME, otherwise known as the American Invitational Mathematics Exam. The AIME is a test hosted for the top 5% of competitors of the AMC and can be strong evidence for your personal skills or efforts when put on your college applications. For something such as the AMC, it’s always important to have a clear study goal in mind. After all, one can only get motivated once they have something to work towards.

As one of the qualifiers for AIME, I can say that studying for the competition and getting motivated is just the first step in the long upcoming journey. For all things academic, of course there will be studying involved, but there are ways to make things easier on oneself. One of the first things to try is to figure out what you think you know in terms of math. It might be a good idea to just simply review areas of math that needs review, as this might help in the initial test prep. Once a good sense of one’s math level is established, it’s time to take a look at the actual exam.

One of the best websites to find previous AMC exams is AoPS Online. It has all of the previous AMC tests stockpiled and is incredibly easy to access. While taking the first mock AMC test, it’s best not to get discouraged, as even most honors math students rarely get more than ten correct answers on their first trial. It's best to look past the mistakes and to keep moving toward your goals. One thing to notice while taking the test is that many of the exam questions seem unlike those being taught at school. This does not reflect a poor understanding of math concepts, but is instead because many of the questions require you to think outside of the box. For example, a question can take something as simple as triangles, and ask you to calculate numbers applying basic properties of the shape. By taking more of the practice exams, one can become more familiar with the format of the questions as well as what to expect on the future exam.

Now it is time to brush up on the unfamiliar math concepts. One of the easiest methods to accomplish this is by joining a math club at school. Many schools have clubs open to interested students to get together to simply discuss and help each other solve difficult math problems, or simply to have fun while doing math. Many of the clubs provide comfortable environments to study in or to even hang out with friends. Of course, if your school is one of the few schools that does not host a math club, it’s quite easy to get a group of friends and start one. Additionally, Youtube videos provide a host of important information that could be beneficial to studying as well.

If I had to choose one method to study for the AMC, the best would be to continue practicing previous AMCs. When taking previous tests, make sure to test in an environment with little to no distractions and noise. It is also very beneficial to have a timer set to an hour and thirty minutes, to simulate the actual length of the exam.

Finally, find the closest exam location to take the actual exam. There are many facilities around the country that host the exam, but a school math teacher or math club advisor should have the best information. There is a high likelihood that if your school has a math club, they will also host the AMC. If unavailable, it’s best to contact nearby math academies, especially those that specially teach AMC mathematics, as they will most likely also host the competition. They will also probably contain all the information needed about the time and date for you to arrive to participate.

On the final day before the competition one might feel butterflies in the stomach as one hopes the hard work will pay off, so a good night's rest is important to help relax nerves. All the people you’ve met and the information you’ve gained along the way makes it feel like one has been a part of something special, and a new world may just open up.

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