Sunday, January 17, 2016

ARML: a regional team math competition for high schoolers

I grew up in the Lehigh Valley, which in the math world is well known for having one of the best ARML teams.  The American Regions Mathematics League is an annual high school mathematics competition held concurrently at four sites (University of Iowa, Penn State, UNLV, and University of Georgia).  Students compete in teams of 15, usually representing a large geographic region like a state or a major city (although some elite schools can field their own teams).  It consists of:
  • a team round, where the team works together to solve 10 problems in 20 minutes
  • a power round, where the team works together for 1 hr to solve a multi-part problem requiring explanations and proofs in 1 hr
  • an individual round, where each member works individually to solve 5 pairs of problems, with 6 minutes given per pair
  • a relay round, where the team is split into groups of 3, and within each group the first team member solves a problem and passes the solution to the next team member, who plugs that answer into their question, and so on. There are two relay questions, and 6 minutes are given for each (although extra points are awarded for finishing in 3 minutes)
There's a lot of variation on how much a team will practice beforehand and how they will select their members (usually through some sort of preliminary test).  Many regions will have multiple teams (for example, Lehigh Valley has Fire, Ice, Lightning, Thunder, and Storm), some of which compete in the A division and others of which compete in the B division.  

I never made it onto the top Lehigh Valley team (although I was the captain of Ice my senior year, and we got 2nd place in the B division!), and I think more than the math itself I enjoyed the social aspect of ARML.  During the competition, I got to stay on a college campus, hang out with my fellow math nerds, and see friends from other parts of the northeast.  A lot of Mao and Mafia was played, and there was even a song contest.

Note: There are fees for registration and housing, but my team always had sponsors to cover them.  I'm not sure if this is the case more generally. 

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