Competitions: A Student Guide

Math contests are fun!  Students have a great time at these events and will remember them for years to come.  To keep it fun and positive for themselves and others, students must act responsibly and understand how to deal with challenges that come up from time to time.  Please read this FAQ to find out more.

Meridian Park has a great reputation for good student behavior at contests. Let’s keep that up!

If you’re a student and you have suggestions for what should be on this page, please have your parents contact  If you choose to contact that address directly, please cc a parent as well.


What should I do before the contest?

Know exactly when the contest date is.  Tell your parents so that you and they can plan contest day together.  What are your goals for the contest?  How much practice do you need to do in order to reach those goals?  How will you get to the contest site?

Make sure you turn in a signed permission slip to your coach before the contest.

Check out the contest website for more information about how the contest works and what the rules are.

The most important thing to do is practice!  When your coach assigns an activity in class, pay attention, follow directions, and do the assignment.  When homework is assigned, do the homework by the due date.  It’s pretty simple:  The harder you practice, the more fun you’ll have at the contest.


What happens at a math contest?

See our contest day page for information.


What should I bring to the contest?

Students must bring 2-3 pencils (#2, not mechanical, please — especially for contests using bubble sheets). A bulk eraser is recommended.

Before the contest, know whether calculators are allowed, and if so, on which rounds.

You’re encouraged to wear your Math Club t-shirt to the contest, or at least wear red.  This helps the chaperones and other adults keep track of our students when there are hundreds of kids around.  Some kids like to dress in layers, because the testing rooms might get hot or cold.  Usually you’re in a classroom during non-school time, which means the heat or air conditioning might be turned off.

Some kids like to bring scratch paper.  It’s a good idea but not required.

You might want to bring a snack and water bottle.  Usually, the proctor will let you keep it near your chair, or in the corner of the room.  If not, hand those items to your chaperone and you can access them during a break.

Make sure you turn off any cell phones or other electronics.  Better yet, hand them to the chaperone; some contests specifically require this.


Can my parents come to the contest?

We encourage all parents to come to the contest.  We need them to volunteer, and they can come and support you!


How do I know where to go and what to do?

Most importantly:  There will always be an adult in charge.  Always know who the adult in charge is:

  • Until your parent meets the chaperone at the beginning of the contest: Parent.
  • During the entire contest, when not in the contest room: Chaperone.
  • While you’re in the contest room: Proctor.

Follow the adult’s directions.  They will help you get to where you need to go.  They will try to answer your questions or help with problems; or, they will find someone who can help, such as the coach.

Note that the chaperone is in charge from hello (parent drops off child to chaperone) to goodbye (parent picks up child from chaperone).



What if I have a problem with someone (teammate, another school, proctor, …)?

If you have a problem with a proctor (eg doesn’t understand the rules or isn’t reading mental math correctly) or a teammate (eg not cooperating with team, said something hurtful), tell your chaperone first.  Even if the chaperone can’t fix it right away, s/he can tell the coach what happened and we can try to help.

Other teams will say discouraging things (for example, “that was so easy” after a hard contest) or even try to provoke you by showing bad behavior.  Ignore it if it doesn’t affect you and tell the adult in charge if it does.  Then concentrate on your own behavior and your own goals for the contest.  If other school teams are disruptive to what you’re trying to do, tell a proctor and your chaperone.

We cannot always fix the problem, but we can improve things and try to keep what happened from affecting the final result of the contest.


What are the behavior rules at contests?

It’s quite simple.  MP expectations apply, even if you’re not in the MP building.  Be respectful, be responsible, be safe.  Everything else follows from that.

Keep your hands to yourself. Don’t push and shove, don’t run around indoors, don’t mess with items such as books or posters in the host building.

Support your teammates.  Regardless of ability level or amount of experience, we are all trying our best.  So encourage each other even when things aren’t going well — just focus on the next task that needs to be done.

Show good sportsmanship.  Always.

Follow directions.  When the adult-in-charge (parent, chaperone, proctor) gives directions, follow them. Don’t leave an adult without getting their permission.

Use appropriate voice levels at all teams, including when you are taking team contests and collaborating.


What do you mean by “good sportsmanship”?

This part is no different from what you learn when playing sports.

Have a positive attitude, whether winning or losing, toward teammates and toward other schools. Don’t get arrogant and don’t get discouraged.  Try your very best and bring out the best in others.

Special note on sportsmanship for younger students: At some contests, you may be “playing up” and competing at a higher grade level (for example, you might be a 3rd-grader taking a 4th-grade contest). If this is the case, show maturity and please do not go around boasting that you are moving up a grade. This makes our competitors feel bad, reflects poorly on us, and may cause contest organizers to restrict grade levels in the future.



I’m walking down the hall with my team and — hey, I see my mom!  Can I just run over there?

Did you tell your chaperone?  And did your chaperone say it’s OK?  That’s what I thought.  The answer is no.

We have had incidents where we thought a child was lost because the chaperone couldn’t find the child or parent; remember, if they lose one, they still have to stay with the other three.

If you really need to go over there, tell your chaperone what you are doing and why, and make a specific arrangement (place and time) to return to your chaperone and team.  Then wait for the chaperone to say it’s OK.  They may tell you no, or that you have to wait.  Follow the chaperone’s directions, please.


When can I go to the bathroom?

You can — and should — use the bathroom before the contest, and during breaks, even if it’s not urgent.  During the contest itself, it might feel urgent.

If the proctor skips a break (as often happens) you might be stuck in the testing room for over an hour.  At many contests, if you leave the room during testing, you can’t come back until the end of that round.  (This prevents cheating.)

So don’t miss out on contest time.  Use the bathroom early and often.

And get some snacks and water too, while you’re at it.


Will I see my coach at the contest?

Usually, yes, coaches will be at the contest.  But they can’t do much coaching there.  They are sometimes asked to proctor or score, and even if they aren’t doing those things, they typically won’t be with you while you actually do the contest.  Make sure you get coaching from the coaches before the competition!


I want to start the contest now!  Why are they giving this boring speech?

Listen closely to orientation speeches at the beginning of the contest.  There is a lot of important information or advice that is worth listening to.  We know the speeches are long and you just want to get going.  Please be patient.  They are answering questions you might have, ahead of time.


Can I keep the questions?

In most cases you can keep the question sheets for the contest.


This awards ceremony is so long!

First of all, that’s not a question.

Yes, it’s long.  Be patient, listen carefully, and applaud the winners politely.  Someday it might be you getting that award; think about how you will want the audience to appreciate you then!



I want to know my scores!  When do I get them?

After the contest, coaches can often, but not always, give you a rough idea of your score right away.  But the contest papers or official scoring materials will usually go home with the coach.  The coach will analyze the information so they understand how to teach better, before handing your papers back to you.

We know you want your scores and materials, so the coaches will work as fast as we can to get the information we need.


I wanted an award!  How can I get an award next time?

Study your answer sheets and the questions, and learn for next time.  This is the way we all  learn the most!