Math Is Cool – Event Info

Meridian Park students love to go to Math Is Cool!  Early dismissal, team contests with friends, wacky test formats — what’s not to love?

This page contains a preparation timeline for students and parents.  Math Club families, read this guide carefully and follow it, in order to make contest day as enjoyable as possible.


In the weeks before the contest

Students:  You have one big job.

  • Practice!  Your coach will guide you on this.  It will probably involve trying out past contests.  Be as familiar as you can with the rules, strategies, and formats.


Parents:  It’s a Friday-afternoon contest, so significant planning and logistics are involved.

  • Fill out the permission slip!  Look for the appropriate file (by grade) on the Permission Slips page.
  • Help your student practice  They will need your proctoring help on the Mental Math and they will need your help to budget time for practicing prior-year contests.
  • Note the meeting place and time
  • Plan for transportation
    • Your student needs to get to Des Moines on a Friday afternoon, with thick Seattle traffic in between.
    • There is no district or PTSA transportation for this.  Coaches do not arrange transportation.  Someone will have to drive your student, for over an hour, in the middle of a workday.  Please plan accordingly.
  • Plan for early dismissal
    • This contest almost always interrupts the school day.
    • Please contact your child’s teacher and request early dismissal at 1:30 PM on contest day.
    • Leaving later than 1:30 is not recommended; you can easily get stuck in traffic and wind up late for the contest.  Also, having all students leave at the same time is less disruptive for the teachers.
  • Plan to volunteer
    • As with most contests, there are two types of roles:  Event Volunteer and Chaperone.
    • We need one Chaperone per team of 3 or 4.
    • We should have at least one Event Volunteer per team as well (to proctor or help score papers).
    • Note:  Proctoring at Math Is Cool can be challenging the first time but it will teach you a lot, guaranteed.
  • Plan to be there if you can
    • If you absolutely can’t be there to volunteer, still consider coming later to attend college bowl.  Parents can watch that part — other schools will have a large parent presence — so the kids will appreciate your support.
  • Plan dinner
    • Students should bring money if they want to get pizza.  Usually it’s about $1.50 per slice (not Central Market size — about half that).
  • Read the contest documents  These will ease a lot of stress and answer a lot of questions.


Morning of Contest Day

Pack what you’re going to bring.

  • Students
    • Required  At least two sharpened pencils; pizza money or your own dinner
    • Recommended  Water bottle, bulk eraser, snack (big enough to carry you over if there’s a problem with the pizza order), small bag or backpack to carry your stuff
    • Optional  Scratch paper, folder for test papers
    • Dress in layers.  Classrooms may be hot or cold, and you might get a little time to play outside.  Please wear your math club T-shirt, or at least red, if possible.
    • Calculators are not allowed, so leave your calculator at home.
  • Chaperones
    • Recommended  Bring a bag for snacks.  We will try to have snacks on site, but you can also bring your own.
    • Cell phone, fully charged.  I learned this from experience. 🙂


Contest Day

Yay, it’s time for Math Is Cool!


1:30PM:  Early Dismissal

Those who are picking up students should be at the Meridian Park school office at 1:30PM sharp, preferably a little earlier.

  • The front desk will call the classrooms at 1:30pm to get the kids.
  • Parents (or the designated responsible adult/driver) will need to sign their kids out on the pink sheet.
  • Kids arrive at the office, everyone gets in their cars, and we’re off to Des Moines!
  • Traffic will be heavy, so please drive safe and be patient.

3:00PM:  Meet at Mt Rainier High School (22450 19th Avenue South, Des Moines WA 98198) in the cafeteria

All parents/drivers:

  • Arrival
    • If you are running late, please let your coach know if possible.
    • Parking is usually plentiful but you will likely have to go off to the side to find a space.
    • First one to the cafeteria should grab a couple of tables for Meridian Park.  Best tables are near the glass doors leading to the courtyard.
    • Take the student(s) to the coach in charge.
  • Check-in with coach and chaperone
    • The coach in charge will direct you to the chaperone, or ask you to await the chaperone, who will then have responsibility for the child(ren) until pickup time.
    • The coach in charge (or the pizza coordinator, if there is one) should also get the kids’ pizza order(s) taken down at that time and collect the pizza money.
    • From then on, if the child wants to go play in the courtyard, retrieve something from the car, go to the bathroom, … the chaperone needs to approve that.
    • It’s a great idea for parent/driver and chaperone to exchange contact information at this time.


  • When you arrive, check in with the coach in charge, who will let you know your team members, team number, and room number.
  • Once your team has all arrived, let the coach know.
  • Make sure all your students’ pizza orders are recorded.
  • Then I recommend that you go check out the testing room and nearest bathroom.  Most bathrooms are located where the hallways turn the corner.  (You’ll see what I mean when you get there.)
  • Encourage the kids to use the bathroom at that time.
  • Just make sure to have your team back to the cafeteria by 3:40 for the orientation.  The kids can go play until then.


  • Stay with your chaperone at all times.  
  • Know your team number and room number.  
  • When your chaperone encourages you to get a snack or (especially) use the bathroom, comply if at all possible.  It’s much better to do that than to have to leave a contest in the middle.
  • MP expectations apply.  Have lots of fun, but stay in control and show respect and good behavior.

Once all students are present, the coach in charge will check in the teams upstairs (usually, room 2701) and submit the pizza preorder (usually, at the front of the cafeteria).

Parents:  If you can stay and volunteer, please do.  If you need to leave and come back, 6:00PM is a good time to return — that’s when the kids return for dinner.

3:40PM:  Orientation

There is some useful information in the orientation speech, but it will be hard to hear.  Please pay attention!

3:50PM:  Go to classrooms

Once the speech is done, students will be dismissed.  Chaperones, please take the students to the classrooms at that time and get them settled in.  Students, this is a good time to use the bathroom if you didn’t already!

4:00PM:  Start testing!

Now the real fun begins!

Coordinator or pizza czar should submit the preorder at this time, if they haven’t already.

The rounds are in this order:  mental math (30 sec per question for 8-10 questions), individual (35 min for 40 questions), team multiple choice (15 min for 10 questions), team test (15 min for 10 questions), relay (5 min per relay for 3 relays).

Kids:  Follow the proctor’s instructions carefully.  Write legibly.  Work quickly but accurately.  In team rounds, work collaboratively, use the grid method, and compare written steps if two answers disagree.  Show good sportsmanship.  Save the contest papers with the questions — it helps the coaches out.

Chaperones:  You can sit on the floor outside the classroom or come back to the cafeteria.  But please go back to the testing room during break times.  During each break:

  • Ask the proctor how long the break will last and determine what you let the kids do accordingly.
  • Bring the kids snacks and encourage bathroom use assuming there is time; they will need those things at unpredictable times.
  • Make sure they get back in the room on time or they will miss that round entirely; they cannot enter once the door is closed.    Be aware of where the kids are and stay in contact with the proctor especially if you’re waiting for a straggler.  
  • Note that breaks can vary by a few minutes from the schedule, depending on whether your team’s room is running very smoothly or behind schedule.  Also note that different rooms run at different speeds.  Sometimes they announce break times at the chaperone lounge, and sometimes they don’t.

5:30PM (+/-):  Pizza should arrive

One or more adults (coordinator, pizza czar, …) should stand in line in order to pick up the pizzas.  That way, we can lay them out and be ready for …

6:00PM:  Dinner!

Self-explanatory.  Eat, drink, and be merry, for soon you will college bowl.

Everyone should pick up their stuff and take it with them to …

6:45PM:  College Bowl

Go back to the classrooms and get ready for the college bowl (buzzer round).  Parents, volunteers, coaches, chaperones — you can watch this.  Volunteer proctors — you’ll need to be at your own room’s college bowl, of course, because you’ll be running it.

Once college bowl is over, you may need to stay for a few minutes so as not to disrupt the other rooms.

7:55PM:  Awards

How can I best describe this?  It is a lot of chaos with some spontaneous eruptions of actual award presentations in between.

Awards are given for top individual in each school, top individuals in each division, and top teams in each division.

Parents and students:  Please note that students must stay with chaperones until the chaperone and responsible adult/driver make contact to transfer custody.  Let’s not lose any kids in the shuffle.

After the awards, the coach in charge will receive the school packet with all test papers.  The coach will take these papers home and analyze the, to understand how to better coach you next time.  Kids, please be patient — we know you want to know your scores.  You’ll get the scores and papers back as soon as we can give them back.