Harvard-MIT Math Tournament Will Hold Separate Contest for Local Kids

To reach out to students in the Cambridge area, organizers of the Harvard-MIT Mathematics Tournament will be holding a new contest this Saturday exclusively for local high school students.

The new contest will feature easier problems, and is only open to students who have not participated on a top 10 HMMT team in past years and go to school within 75 miles of Cambridge. It will be held on Nov. 8 at Harvard’s Science Center. The traditional spring contest held in February will continue as scheduled.

HMMT began in 1998 as a high school math tournament, and students from Lexington, Arlington, and Newton once routinely made it into the top ranks. But organizers say that as HMMT grew more popular, teams from other states and even other countries came to dominate the contest.

“We had a team from Turkey last year, and a team from China will be participating this year,” said Beth Schaffer ’11. Schaffer, along with Rishi Gupta ’11 and Yi Sun from Harvard, are organizing HMMT this year.

The popularity of HMMT and the increased difficulty of its problems has led to a decline in the number of local students participating in February’s tournament. “The growing competitiveness has made the [local] students intimidated,” said Schaffer.

They hope that the new tournament will bring back some of those students. Already, they have signed up 300 students, Gupta said.

For the new tournament, Gupta said, test-writers have crafted problems that are still interesting but are not as devilishly hard as the questions on the spring exam.

HMMT is an annual high school math competition organized by Harvard and MIT students. Undergraduates write, organize, and run the contest held in February.

Schaffer said a frequent misconception high school students have is that winning the tournament will secure a spot at Harvard or MIT.

“We have placed a warning [on our website] that says: Participating in, or even scoring well at HMMT will not get you into Harvard or MIT,” she said. “We have no affiliation with the admissions offices at either of these schools.”

Gupta said participating in HMMT is just “like getting one point out of 80 for [an] admissions checklist.”