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Appropriate Advising vs. Outside Help
We get it. Students may not know how to do some tasks involved in producing a video…but learning these skills makes this program awesome and meaningful for students. Therefore:
 
  • Every step in the creative process (brainstorming, storyboarding, solving math problems, screenwriting and coming up with interesting effects or ideas) must be imagined and executed by the students.
  • Costumes, props, sets and other physical elements of the video must be either made by the students or be available for general use.
  • Filming and acting in the video must be done either by the students or by someone else at the direction of the students.
  • Editing of the video, including special effects, must be done by the students.
Appropriate advising helps students learn. Students are introduced to a new skill and then apply that skill to their video themselves. Outside help interferes with student learning. Rather than letting students create their video, non-team members apply their own skills or ideas directly to the video.
 
Appropriate advising is great. Inappropriate outside help will get a team disqualified. It can be difficult to determine whether assistance crosses the line, so we’ve provided the information below to help you.
 

When in doubt, ask!

If you have specific questions that are not covered in this guide or need additional clarification, please do not hesitate to ask the MATHCOUNTS national office by emailing info@mathcounts.org!
The Creative Process
There are a lot of steps to creating a video, which is great for engaging students with different talents and interests! Some of these steps are:
 
  • Selecting a great math problem for a video
  • Thinking through the solution(s) to be presented in the video
  • Brainstorming ideas about the story, determining a real-world application for the problem and writing the script
  • Acting in, filming and editing the video
It can be tempting for parents/team advisors to help with these creative tasks, especially given that this is a contest. But this is a contest, so students must do the work themselves. Every part of the creative process should be done by the students. The jokes in their script should be theirs. The characters should be theirs. The wacky camera angles and emotive acting decisions should be theirs. The step-by-step math solution(s) should be theirs. The video must be the students’ work.
Costumes, Props, Sets & Other Physical Elements
We love when students make their video special with memorable costumes, props or sets! Here are guidelines for “appropriate advising.”
 

Appropriate Advising:

  • Drive students to a thrift store to buy costumes.
  • Teach students how to sew.
  • Encourage students to look online for DIY costume ideas.
  • Help students find simple Halloween costumes, a face painting kit or felt/fabric to make costume elements.
  • Help students find/buy materials for a backdrop or props.
  • Advise students to make a smaller draft version of a backdrop before making the large version.
  • Drive students to stores so they can speak to store owners about filming there.
  • Supervise students while they film on location.

Inappropriate Outside Help:

  • Sew or make any pieces of the costume yourself.
  • Paint the students’ faces for the video yourself.
  • Hire a professional costume designer.
  • Draw or paint any of the backdrop yourself.
  • Make props yourself.
  • Make arrangements yourself with a store owner to use her shop for the video location.
Filming & Acting
Filming and acting give students the chance to be creative and to share their ideas. Here are guidelines for “appropriate advising.”
 

Appropriate Advising:

  • Help students find video/recording equipment. MATHCOUNTS provided a phone tripod to assist with filming on a phone. Students could also check out equipment from their local/school library.
  • Supervise students using borrowed equipment.
  • Encourage students to practice with the equipment first.
  • Hold the camera during recording—so all team members can be in a shot—and follow students’ directions for camera angles and shots.
  • Provide honest feedback about how well you can hear and understand the dialogue.
  • Require students to provide all direction regarding acting and line delivery to non-team members appearing in the video.
  • Ensure students collect a Media Release Form for every non-team member in the video.

Inappropriate Outside Help:

  • Hire a video production company or professional.
  • Suggest filming angles or creative shots.
  • Write or direct the video for the students.
  • Suggest students re-shoot a portion of the video to incorporate your ideas.
Editing & Special Effects
Editing a video and adding special effects allow students to gain valuable experience using video editing software and to let their creativity shine. Here are guidelines for “appropriate advising.”
 

Appropriate Advising:

  • Without doing any work for the actual video, teach students how to (1) use editing software, (2) apply special effects, (3) use animation software, (4) combine video clips, (5) incorporate audio clips or (6) add captions.
  • Encourage students to ask a technology teacher for lessons on using video editing software.
  • Encourage your team to research or watch instructional videos about the software recommended by MATHCOUNTS.
  • Suggest students practice editing video footage before working on their Math Video Challenge video.
  • Suggest students research a green screen and how it works.
  • Explain what music/sound effects are permitted (see Copyrighted Materials Guidelines).
  • Remind students to properly credit any permitted work that is not their own.

Inappropriate Outside Help:

Allow a non-team member (including the team advisor or a parent) to:
  • edit any part of the video
  • apply any special effects
  • create any animation
  • select, suggest or incorporate music/sound effects
  • add captions
Is it Outside Help If...

Is it outside help if a parent holds the camera so all 4 students can be in the video?

Not if a parent is simply holding the camera steady so all 4 team members can appear in the video. But, if a parent is deciding where and how to hold the camera to do a creative shot, that would be considered outside help.
 

Is it outside help if I limit my students to a specific math topic or difficulty level for the problem they select?

No, this would not be considered outside help. However, a team advisor should not assign a specific problem to students.
 

Is it outside help if I point out an error in the math explanation?

Letting students know you believe there may be a math error in their video and encouraging them to find it is not outside help. Students need to make the correction – or re-shoot that portion of the video – on their own.
 

Is it outside help if a team buys its costumes from a store?

No, not within reason. We do not want teams purchasing lavish costumes or hiring costume designers.
 

Is it outside help if I do lessons about the creative process or editing for my students?

No, as long as the lessons do not create content or footage used in the students’ videos.
 

Is it outside help if I show my students how to edit by editing the first few scenes of their video and then have them do the rest?

Yes, this is considered outside help because you would be contributing directly to the making of their video.
 

Is it outside help if I show my students a second solution to their math problem?

Yes, this is considered outside help. You can encourage your students to come up with their own second solution, but you should not provide it.
 

Is it outside help if I pay for video editing software for my students to use?

No, but we strongly recommend using free or low-cost video editing software.