Top 10 Preparation Strategies for Mathcounts

Have you been preparing and practicing for the Mathcounts competition? Do you follow a specific daily preparation routine? Do you have a list of strategies? Let me share a few with you that worked well for us and hopefully will work for you too. 

As you are getting ready, the most important thing to keep in mind is to “Believe in yourself”. Preparation trumps over everything and when combined with smart strategies and a positive mindset it becomes a force multiplier. In this post, we have covered 10 best general preparation strategies that yield amazing results over a period of time but the only way to discover powerful unique strategies that work for you  is through solving multiple mocks under test conditions before the competition. This will help you in identifying gaps in your skills and enable you to self explore possible solutions to overcome them. But in order to get there, you have to first start infusing some of these general strategies during your preparation. 

1. Believe in yourself and Rigorously prepare for every round equally

As you may know, there are 3 official levels in Mathcounts (Chapter, State and National). In 2021(online format), there are 4 (introducing Chapter Invitational after the Chapter round) of which the Chapter level is the first hurdle to cross. 

If you are part of your school practice sessions in your 6th grade and are lucky to join the school team or participate as an individual in your Chapter, you have done a great job already.  During your school practice sessions, you may fall under the trap believing there is no way you can make it through the Chapter level with so many 7th and 8th graders with rich experience from previous years. This is especially true if you are an individual and not part of the school team.  

The disadvantage of not being part of the school team is that you have to place in Top 3 at Chapter level to guarantee you a spot at the State level. If you are part of the school team and your team makes it to Top 2 in the chapter,  you automatically go to the State level irrespective of your individual performance results. So what if you are an individual contestant and not part of your amazing school team?

During my 6th grade, I participated as an individual and came 4th in the Mercer Chapter written round. Since I didn’t focus much on the countdown during that year thinking my chances of making the Top 4 list in the Chapter is low, I slipped to 5th place overall, losing a great opportunity to take part in the State level competition. It's tricky. ONLY those individuals who ranked in Top 4 from the Chapter qualifies to go to the State level along with the Top 2 teams. If only I had prepared equally for all the rounds, I would have entered the State level competition during my very first year of Mathcounts Journey. 

This is slightly different in 2021 but yet again the strategy remains simple and applicable even during this year’s online format. Keep a positive mindset. Don't think you wont make it. You may very well make it. I repeat, Believe in yourself and Rigorously prepare for every round equally

2. Preparation and Timed Practice

Two things must be balanced really well for a better performance in Mathcounts. 

Everyone agrees that preparation and practice are the 2 things. But it's not just Practice,  it is Timed Practice i.e. Practicing under Test Conditions. 

Do a minimum of 2 mocks per week under test conditions a month before your Chapter round. If you need mocks to work under test conditions, consider signing up for PracticeCompetition.com. We have amazing mocks and our 5 step success method will teach you how to get better by following simple ideas.

Analyze the results, re-study the concepts, review the same mock again to strengthen your thinking process and to understand the question pattern. 

If you have been preparing for Mathcounts since the beginning of your school year during your 6th, 7th and 8th grade, doing mocks under under test conditions 4 to 6 weeks before the Chapter Level can be extremely beneficial to identify your weak spots and to fix it with techniques from our 5 step success method. 

3. Prepare with a variety of Competition Question Sets 

Practice your skills with other competition question papers when you get a chance. Not just previous years Mathcounts papers. 

It can be AMC8 or 10, Math League or other regional competition question papers so you start to familiarize yourself outside the boundaries of Mathcounts. 

At PracticeCompetition.com, we are working towards creating tens of thousands of practice questions from various topic areas tested on Mathcounts to help you develop your problem solving ability. We are scheduled to launch this product in 2021. Stay tuned!

4. Mix and Match. (you can do this as a game with your friend or parent)

Gather a group of 40 to 50 questions at varying difficulty. 

Solve the first 5 questions using pen and paper. Solve the next 5 without pen and paper and alternate. 

When you play this as a game by working together without a time limit you can learn problem solving and thinking techniques from working with each other.  

You will be surprised to learn how you solve certain problems in your head that require pen and paper. This also helps you with your countdown skills. 

5. Activate your Subconscious problem solving skills

Learn to read through the problems carefully and not just glance over it. if you are not sure how to solve them, skip them.

Skipping a problem in itself is a strategy. It is hard to think of it that way, but it is. Part of the strategy with leaving problems to solve for later after reading them is that you often work on those subconsciously. 

An idea might come to you about a particular problem while you're not working on it. You can then go back and work through the problem.

6. Solve until you can crack it on your own

Compile a list of challenging questions. Push yourself to think beyond your comfort level and this strategy will help you develop your problem solving skills and provide you with a formula with which you can crack other problems.  

When you get stuck on a problem and cannot understand how to solve it, don't look at the solution right away because it hinders your learning and outside the box thinking.  Spend at least 30 to 45 minutes reading the concepts needed to solve that problem and retry it. In challenging problems there is an opportunity to learn more so don't look at solutions for a few days.

Let your subconscious level do the work. If you are out of ideas even after few days of thinking, then as the last option you can look up the solution and try to figure out why you could not crack it in the first place. 

7. Attend other competitions to get your head in the game

This also helps with giving you additional practice and might expose your weaknesses that you can work on to fix it ahead of your important and bigger competitions like Mathcounts during your middle school years. Find all local, online and district level competitions that you can attend and register for it. Take a look at the links of the competitions that we have attended over the years from here. 

8. Keep track of your mistakes

When you catch yourselves making mistakes on certain questions, make a note of them. Most likely you will make the same mistake again. The act of writing it down will help you remember the mistake and catch yourself next time. 

Also, make it a habit of reviewing your mistakes list weekly. This helps you visualize in order to register strongly in your mind, so you'll know to slow down when you come across those patterns again. For each mistake, make a little note of why you made it (e.g. didn’t read the question fully, missed important keywords in the question etc.,).

9. Start early 

It is ideal if you start preparing for Mathcounts since the beginning of the school year and do more time mocks as you near the competition dates. If you didn't have enough preparation time and are cutting close to the competition date then don't stress yourself too much by packing longer hours of preparation daily. Just continue to practice with complete mocks (Sprint and Target) under test conditions. Follow the 5 step success method and it will improve your skill level and confidence with which you can handle yourself well during the test. It's never too late. Remember practicing under test conditions is the key to your overall success in performance at competitive math. See point #2. 

Also, remember winning or losing is just a thing and does not matter in the grand scheme of your school life. There are so many unseen benefits that you get by taking part in competitions and events. It builds self confidence, helps to meet new friends from whom you may gain awareness on other interesting competitions that you can participate during your school years.

10. Keep your mind and body in top shape

This is super important as you need your mind and body’s support to do better in anything. 

Follow daily health routines. Eat a healthy balanced meal. Drink plenty of water. Get a good night's sleep. Sleeping is very important. Studying is important but don't forget to leave room to exercise. Exercise can help refresh the brain. Do whatever you like. Be it swimming, running, basketball, tennis - everything helps to keep your mind refreshed, active and agile all of which are important factors that can help you to prepare for tests more effectively and perform at your highest level.

We would love to hear from you about your experience and how any of our strategies helped you during your competition experience. Good luck with your Mathcounts Journey. Do well.