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Steven Dunbar, Director

University of Nebraska–Lincoln

1740 Vine Street

Lincoln, NE 68588-0658

(402) 472-2257

QUICK TAKE: You have to earn your way into the program by

taking a series of very tough, very competitive math exams.

Your child will compete against 300,000 kids to gain entry into

one of thirty spots in the summer program. They, in turn, will

eventually compete for one of seven spots on the international

team representing the United States. This program looks for

the best and brightest kids and lets them participate in “problem

solving and enriching mathematics experiences.”


of America (MAA)

FEES: The program is free and travel is covered. Sponsors include

Microsoft, the Office of Naval Research, and the Army

Research Office.

AGE REQUIREMENT: Grades 9 through 12 (exceptions are made

for the “super” mathematician, who can begin as early as

grade 6). Admission based on the eligibility test.

BACKGROUND: Originally sponsored by the New York Metropolitan

Section of the MAA, the American Mathematics Competitions

started in New York City in 1950 and involved 238

schools and 6,000 students. This year, more than 413,000 students

in more than 5,100 schools participated in the AMC

10/12 Contests held in February. Another 10,000 students

have qualified to participate in other programs held throughout

the year.

DESCRIPTION: Each year, AMC sends information about the

program to every school that teaches sixth through twelfth

grades. There are five contests: the AMC 8, 10, and 12 (for kids

at or below those grade levels), the American Invitational

Mathematics Exam (AIME), and the United States of America

Mathematics Olympiad (USAMO). According to the Web site,

“the AMC contests are intended for everyone from the average

student at a typical school who enjoys mathematics to

the very best student at the most special school.” In March

and April, qualifying rounds for the AIME take place, pairing

a group of 10,000 students down to approximately 250. “The

AMC year culminates with the Mathematical Olympiad Summer

Program (MOSP) which is a four-week training program

for 100 of the top qualifying AMC students. It is from this

group of truly exceptional students that the U.S.A. Team,

which will represent the United States at the International

Mathematical Olympiad (IMO) is chosen. With state competitions,

award ceremonies in Washington, DC, and international

competitions, AMC stands as a neatly organized way for your

math whiz to be recognized and decorated. The summer program

is approximately three weeks long.

OUR TAKE: Since it’s one of the most organized intellectual

programs for kids out there, we give it a rave review. The fact

that they send enrollment materials to all schools, from

the most select private institutions to run-of-the-mill public

schools, is a huge plus.

OUR RECOMMENDATION: Every school has the opportunity to

get involved, so do so! It’s a stellar opportunity for students

with math proficiencies to use their skills in a constructive

way. And who knows, with sponsors like the research councils

of the Army and Navy as well as Microsoft, this program

could be a springboard for your child’s successful career.


Carol Ann DeSimine, Assistant Director

Route 130 South, Suite F

Gloucester City, NJ 08030

(856) 456-7776

QUICK TAKE: Nation’s first creative problem solving competition.

The competition begins at the school level and works its

way up to an international competition, which involves both

domestic and foreign schools. School must be a member of

“Odyssey of the Mind” (the school pays a very nominal fee for

membership). Each school may have up to fourteen teams.

Four thousand schools participate each year. A coach (parent

or teacher) is needed for each team.

AGE REQUIREMENT: Kindergarten through grade twelve. There

are four divisions: Division I – each team member must be

under 12 years of age and in a grade no higher than 5th by

May 1 of that school year. Division II – Kids must be younger

than 15 years of age and in a grade no higher than 8th by

May 1 of that school year and not be qualified for Division I.

Division III – Kids must be in grades K–12 and not qualified

for Division I or II. Division IV – Collegiate: Age groups overlap

because the divisions are based on aptitude. Team members

must be high school graduates and enrolled in at least

one course at a two- or four-year college or university.


the sponsors and supporters of this competition.

BACKGROUND: Odyssey of the Mind, established in the early

1980s by Dr. Sam Micklus, a professor of industrial design

at Rowan University (then Glassboro State College in New

Jersey), introduced his students to many mind-bending engineering

and mechanical projects. The local media picked

up on his fun classroom atmosphere and before long, people

outside the institution wanted to share the experience.

Eventually, a “creative problem-solving for school children”

program was born, and more than twenty years after its

inception, Odyssey of the Mind has become an international


DESCRIPTION: Each year, kids compete on five long-term problems,

selected from the following categories: (1) mechanical/

vehicle—building and operating vehicles; (2) classics—

books, art, and architecture; (3) performance; (4) structure—

building, using only balsa wood and glue; and (5) technical

performance, where kids “make innovative contraptions and

incorporate artistic elements into their solutions.” With problem-

solving skills becoming more and more imperative in

today’s society, this competition is designed to help kids

“think smart,” “think logically,” and gain proficiency in thinking

through a challenge.

There are chartered associations in most areas of the

country in which local competitions are held. Points are

awarded and a national and international champion is determined.

Kids can win educational scholarships and travel to

various parts of the country and world to compete against

other participants.

OUR TAKE: Overall, this competition is a good experience. It

teaches team work, school spirit, and a sense of self to or the

intelligent child who wants to stretch his or her mind.

OUR RECOMMENDATION: If your child’s school is not already

an Odyssey of the Mind member, it is probably worth looking

into. For the $135 school fee, 14 teams of your school’s best

and brightest students can make you, your community, and

themselves proud of their problem-solving abilities. If your

child’s school is already a member, it could be fun and character

building for him/her. Even if your team doesn’t skyrocket

to the international competition, children will learn to

think for themselves, think creatively, and make friends with

kids who have similar interests.