CHANGES TO THE 2022 COMPETITION SERIES
The MATHCOUNTS national staff has been monitoring the effect of the pandemic on the MATHCOUNTS Competition Series. After careful consideration and feedback from multiple members of our community, we have decided to host the 2022 Chapter Competition online.
- School Competition: coaches will still decide what this looks like. The 2022 School Competition is still available online. We also will provide 2 online practices this year.
- Official Chapter Competition: hosted online on the AoPS Contest Portal on February 17, 2022. Participants must begin the competition between 12pm ET and 8pm ET.
- Unofficial Bonus Competition: hosted in person in chapters where our volunteers can get space and run them safely. We will work with coordinators to provide registered coaches more info about this.
- State Competition: still planned for in-person in March 2022.
- National Competition: still planned for in-person in May 2022.
We're still finalizing details surrounding this year's online Chapter Competition and will update this page with more answers as we have them.
At this time, (1) we do not believe we can expect 500 chapter coordinators to each be responsible for hosting a large, in-person event this program year, and (2) we do not believe we can require students to attend in-person events for the Chapter Competition this February.
If schools are back in person, there’s a greater expectation Chapter Competitions will be held in person. Are there significant differences between attending school and attending a Chapter Competition?
- Schools have resources to support in-person “gatherings” that volunteer coordinators likely do not have. Many schools that are operating in person are still not allowing “outside visitors” or even parents into the school buildings, so there are still limitations.
- Schools are able to do contact tracing for any issues that arise. Venues are requiring this of renters, and this is not something volunteer chapter coordinators are equipped to do.
- Schools are prepared to enforce COVID-related mandates. Asking a volunteer to enforce the COVID requirements of a venue (mask mandate, proof of vaccination, social distancing requirements) for participants who may not be willing to comply is not a position we want to put our volunteers in.
- Some areas and venues have much lower maximum capacity allowances; coordinators have expressed they would not be able to accommodate everyone who initially registers for the competition.
- Many school districts are requiring adults in the school to be vaccinated (or show proof of negative COVID tests). MATHCOUNTS Chapter Competitions cannot have this same level of scrutiny or expectation of every adult volunteer/attendee at the event.
- Students not feeling well the day of the competition are likely to still attend a competition since it is the only time it is offered. (An online event would keep this from happening.) Students are more likely to stay home from school when not feeling well.
If a change to the 500 Chapter Competitions held across the country is going to be made, it needs to be made now. The format of the Chapter Competitions impacts hundreds of volunteers around the country who would each be responsible for planning a large, in-person event. That kind of planning takes months. Additionally, pivoting to an online event requires months of work related to preparing the online testing platform and ensuring coaches and students get themselves set up with access to the platform in plenty of time to become familiar with and test the platform. This early notification allows volunteers and participants to plan and prepare.
As a national organization that supports over 500 local programs, 56 state programs and tens of thousands of middle school students nationwide and overseas, we have a tremendous obligation to consider the health and safety of our volunteers and students and to ensure a level of consistency in the implementation of the Competition Series. We considered numerous hybrid options, but there was no hybrid option our staff could execute fairly and effectively.
We are so grateful that things are improving, but they’re not improving in the same way everywhere and that improvement hasn’t quite translated to large-scale events yet. We have to consider not only health and safety but also (1) our volunteer coordinators’ ability to plan and run in-person chapter competitions and (2) our participants’ ability to attend large, indoor, in-person competitions this year.
We hosted a team component last year for three of the practice competitions and heard from many coaches that they missed having that component included for the official competitions. We will make the Team Round an option this year for the Chapter Competition. The competition platform allows all four team members to see the competition problems, allows the pre-identified captain to enter answers, and will calculate a team score using the four students’ individual scores and Team Round score. The system does not provide a way for teammates to communicate with one another; students must set up their own Zoom or FaceTime call or come up with a similar communication plan if they are not taking the Team Round in the same physical location as each other.
A Countdown Round will not be used in the official Chapter Competition this year. Chapter coordinators may choose to include a fun Countdown Round if they host unofficial, in-person events.
Is it inconsistent to move official Chapter Competitions online but also encourage unofficial, in-person chapter events?
We understand it is possible to host a safe, in-person event, and there are many chapter coordinators who are eager to do so. We don’t believe 500 chapter competitions can be held safely, in person and in a way that can both accommodate all registrants and be manageable by all chapter coordinators. We also do not believe requiring a student to attend—or requiring a volunteer to host—a large, indoor, in-person event is the right path for Chapter Competitions this February.
These fun, unofficial chapter events we are encouraging would be completely optional for students—and coordinators. Additionally, if there are occupancy limitations, coordinators can limit the number of students who can attend (and couldn’t do that for an official event).
The in-person events coordinators host are what make MATHCOUNTS special. For the students who do not progress past the Chapter Competition, the “officialness” or ability to advance is not the main point of a Chapter Competition. Rather, the highlight is the opportunity for students to get together and compete…it’s the excitement of participating in the event while wearing their team shirt and feeling the pride of representing their school.
At a minimum, the top 4 highest-scoring students from each chapter will advance to the State Competition (rather than the top team and top two kids not on the winning team). After advancing the top 4 highest-scoring students, state coordinators may allow additional students to advance as long as the policy for progression is consistent for all chapters within the state.
Note that advancement of teams to the State Competition will not be required. The decision to advance teams to the State Competition will be at the discretion of each state coordinator.
Handling Chapter and State Competitions differently seems odd since they are held just one month apart. What factors contribute to approaching them differently and having more flexibility at the state level?
Many chapter competitions typically use donated spaces (schools, universities, company headquarters) that are either no longer being made available for “outside use” or are putting severely restrictive requirements on users. State competitions are often paying for space (hotels) and these are more available and don’t typically have the same COVID-related requirements.
There are 500+ chapter competitions. A decision about their format must be made now. Pivoting to 500 online events (for tens of thousands of students) would not be feasible for the national office and AoPS (the organization providing the online competition platform) if it is not done now. If it must be done, pivoting 56 state events (and a few thousand students) to an online format can be done in a much shorter period of time.
Students who register for the Competition Series are registering for the Chapter Competition and the opportunity to advance. Therefore, the environment at this level must be as conducive as possible to accommodating the most students.
There is obviously an obligation to provide a safe environment for later levels of the competition, too. These state and national events, however, are not guaranteed with registration, the number of students attending these levels can be controlled through advancement policies to ensure the number of students does not overwhelm the available space, and it is up to the student (and their family) if they’d like to take part in the state and/or national events in the formats they are being offered.
The national office logistically cannot support a hybrid approach to the chapter competitions. We can support a hybrid approach (most states in person, with perhaps a few needing to be held online) for the state competitions.
An in-person National Competition seems very ambitious given the concerns with in-person Chapter Competitions. Is this really feasible?
The explanation for how the state events are different from the chapter events is relevant to this question, too. It should be noted, however, that some changes to the National Competition structure may be necessary. The national staff is responsible for the planning of this event, and we will be able to make a decision about any required adjustments closer to May, but likely no later than March 2022.
We will provide more specifics about the online Chapter Competition exam very soon, but please consider planning now to get your students together to take the competition…it can still be a fun experience with team comradery and plenty of talking afterwards about the problems that were the most fun and the most challenging!