Is your child gifted at math and also likes a good competition? If so, Mathcounts is the program for you! Founded by the National Society of Professional Engineers in 1983, Mathcounts is a nationwide program designed to boost the mathematical competency of middle school students in our public school system. The program features a series of competitions with many rounds for teams and individuals at the regional, state, and national levels.


How does MATHCOUNTS Work?

Unlike the standard, straightforward, and boring math problems taught at school that can be solved via the press of a calculator button, Mathcounts presents many different varieties of unique problems that have to be solved with a thorough understanding of different concepts and creative solutions from the competitor. This style of tasks can help students strengthen their problem-solving skills, and lets them build a persistent mindset when overcoming challenges.


Competition Format

During each competition, there will be four different rounds, each being the sprint, target, team, and countdown round, listed in competition order. Some rounds will be taken individually, whereas other rounds will be taken with a team, or competing head-on with other individuals.

Sprint Round
The Sprint round is an individual round that presents students with a list of many simple problems that he or she has to solve in a relatively short amount of time. Students will get 40 minutes to complete 30 problems, where each problem is worth 1 point to count towards their total score. The problems start off relatively easy, then start to ramp up in difficulty for each question. This round will test the students to be able to understand and solve the problems quickly and to manage their time wisely.

Target Round

The Target round is also an individual round that gives students a few difficult or complex problems to solve in a decent amount of time. Students will get 8 minutes to solve a set of 2 problems, with four sets in total. The problems also ramp up in difficulty for each set, and each problem is worth 2 points to their total score. This will mostly test the students’ ability to put their skills to the max and solve a few really challenging problems, all while being decently speedy.

Team Round

The Team round is a teamwork round that throws a few difficult problems for the group to solve together. There will be 20 minutes to complete a total of 10 problems, where each problem is worth 1 point, which does not count into the individual scoring. This round will force the students to work effectively as a team, splitting up the work for easy problems, and joining forces for the toughies.

Countdown Round

Finally, the Countdown round is an individual, bracket-based elimination round where competitors face other competitors to solve problems shown on a board as fast as they can. There will be 16 individuals, selected based on how well they did on their Sprint and Target rounds, and they will face off in pairs in a bracket elimination tournament. Individuals will be shown a problem, then they will have 40 seconds to finish the problem, and whoever rings the bell first will be called on to present their answer. If the answer is correct, they win that point. If not, the other competitor will have a chance to present their answer. Best out of 3 points moves on to the next round. This mode will test students’ speed and accuracy when shown a fresh problem, and their ability to work effectively in stress-filled conditions. This mode is not for the faint of heart.


The UCI Department of Mathematics has hosted the Orange County Regional and Southern California State competitions since 1992. Each year, about 60-70 middle schools and 400-500 extremely talented middle school students take part in these two events. Scores of volunteers from UCI (faculty, staff, undergraduate and graduate students) and industry (NSPE members and employees) contribute to the success of the event. Most mathletes are accompanied by one or more family members and friends, making this a quite large and lively event.

Orange County Regional Competition
Date: Saturday, February 10, 2024
Location: Morning competition location: UCI Student Center
Afternoon countdown round location: Student Center Lobby/Pacific Ballroom CD
Time: 8:00 am

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(last updated: 02/01/2023)