It is great that the AMS is able to conduct this competition which values and encourages mathematical talent. While sports are usually celebrated, it is wonderful that students interested in mathematics can also be encouraged. I sincerely hope that many more students gain the opportunity to participate in this competition.
Thanks for your interest in Who Wants to Be a Mathematician! Questions from the game are taken from pre-caculus math and can include algebra, geometry, trigonometry, probability, combinatorics, math history, and logic. Most contestants are in high school, but we've had some students in 8th grade qualify. For all games we ask a teacher (or parent or Math Circles organizer for home-schooled students) to administer a 15-minute qualifying test. If you're interested in competing, please have your teacher email us at paoffice at ams dot org, with his or her name, school, and the courses he or she is teaching in the fall semester, and we'll send information about qualifying.
For the championship Who Wants to Be a Mathematician game, held in conjunction with the annual Joint Mathematics Meetings in January, we have teachers in schools in the U.S., U.K., and Canada administer the Round One qualifying test (either online or with paper copies) and proctor it. No calculators, internet, books, or other help is allowed. Those who score 8 or above (out of 10) in Round One, qualify for the Round Two test, which also lasts for two weeks, but which is harder. After the Round Two test, we select qualifiers from 9 regions in the U.S. and the local area surrounding the Joint Mathematics Meetings host city based on their scores on the test, one from Canada, and one from the U.K., and let the teachers of those students know. Note: Round One qualifying is over. Thanks to the more than 4,000 students who took the test and to their teachers. If you missed this year's test, but would like to participate in the future, ask you math teacher to contact us or send us his or her email address. Send to paoffice at ams dot org.
The online qualifying tests are provided by our Technology Sponsor, Maplesoft. Due to federal law, students under 13 must take the paper version of the national qualifying test. U.K. participation is made possible by the University of Southampton.
Tie-breakers. Because there are so few semifinal slots available for the championship game and so many good students who take the test, we often have many ties for first in a region. In addition to the scores, further considerations for contest selection are the closest answer on a particular qualifying test question (one that involves an approximation, usually question 10), gender (an effort is made to include an equal number of males and females), and grade (a high school senior receives preference over younger students who will have another chance before they graduate). The exact tie-breaking procedure is included with the Round Two test.
We hold regional Who Wants to Be a Mathematician contests as well, usually by invitation from a host university or from the organizer of a special event, like a Sonia Kovalevsky Day. When we hold regional games, the local organizer (or us) contacts math teachers, math department chairs, and local math organizations to invite them to administer a qualifying test to interested students.
The game is loads of fun and you have a chance to win cash and prizes, so ask your math teacher to contact us or send us his or email address (to paoffice at ams dot org)!