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Guide to the Harvard-MIT Mathematics Tournament Competition

2 minute read

What is the Harvard-MIT Mathematics Tournament? 

Since its inception in 1994, the Harvard-MIT Mathematics Tournament (HMMT) has been a pinnacle math competition for high school students. Drawing math enthusiasts from around the globe, the competition assembles young scholars to tackle complex mathematical problems over one weekend in February each year. HMMT tests the depth and agility of students' quantitative skills by spanning various domains from algebra to calculus. 

Like with the Regeneron Science Talent Search (STS) and the Math Prize for Girls, participating in the Harvard MIT Mathematics Tournament represents a milestone on the journey to intellectual growth. Competitors can demonstrate their mathematical talent against peers from elite math programs worldwide through a written exam and a fast-paced team round. The intensive preparation sharpens logical thinking and expands mathematical knowledge. Students gain exposure to new concepts during the math competition and forge friendships with like-minded peers. 

The organizers divide the competition into three divisions: 

  1. November Competition

  2. February Competition

  3. February Guts Round

The November and February rounds of the Harvard MIT Mathematics Tournament feature individual and team events, while the February Guts is a unique team-based competition focused on speed and accuracy.

Who is eligible to compete? 

Anyone with a passion for math and in high school grades 9 through 12 with an ID is invited. No matter where you're from or your math background, you're in. Participants compete within their grade level, and teams can include up to 4 students, but solo players are welcome. 

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How do I prepare for the Harvard MIT Math Tournament?

Below is a list of 8 things to do to prepare for HMMT: 

  1. Have an Excellent Theoretical Foundation in Mathematics
    Success in the Harvard MIT Math Tournament begins with building a solid foundation in core mathematical concepts. Ensure you deeply understand critical topics like algebra, geometry, number theory, combinatorics, and proofs, as HMMT problems synthesize these areas. There are over 1000 sample problems on the HMMT website that can help you get started.

  2. Review Previous HMMT Competitions and Guides
    Diligently reviewing previous HMMT competitions is essential preparation. Working through past problems exposes you to the exam format, style, and difficulty level. It hones your quantitative reasoning, logic, and problem-solving skills. You can find the most recent 2023 February Tournament problems and solutions here. Solve problems individually under timed conditions, then discuss approaches with peers to simulate the team round.

  3. Practice, practice, practice.
    Beyond academic preparation, managing your time and mindset is key. The 5-hour individual test requires both speed and accuracy. Refine your time allocation strategies and avoid careless errors. Communication and collaborative thinking under pressure are vital during the intense team round.

  4. Connect with the Mathematical Community
    Engage with like-minded individuals by joining a mathematics club at a local university or forming one at your high school. Collaborating with peers allows for diverse perspectives and fosters a supportive environment for learning and growth.

  5. Continuous Learning
    The journey doesn't end with a successful HMMT competition. Embrace a mindset of continuous learning and exploration. Mathematics is a dynamic field with ever-evolving challenges and problems. Stay curious, delve into advanced topics, and be open to new mathematical discoveries.

    Moreover, the Art of Problem Solving (AoPS) is a fantastic resource for continuous learning. Their AoPSWiki and various online tools serve as a treasure trove for students keen on mathematics competitions. As you explore the AoPSWiki, you'll find individual articles packed with sample problems and solutions tailored for different levels of problem solvers. Moreover, these articles often link to books, websites, and additional resources, providing a comprehensive toolkit for anyone looking to sharpen their mathematical skills.

  6. Stay Calm Under Pressure
    The stakes are high, and the pressure of a competitive environment can be intense. Cultivate mental resilience by practicing under timed conditions and developing strategies to stay calm and focused during the competition.

  7. Learn from Mistakes
    After each competition practice, thoroughly review the solutions and understand the reasoning behind correct answers. Analyze your mistakes and learn from them. Continuous improvement is a fundamental aspect of success in mathematics competitions.

  8. Seek Feedback

Seek feedback from coaches, teammates, or mentors who may have observed your performance. Constructive criticism is invaluable for personal and academic growth. Likewise, as you succeed in HMM, mentor others by sharing your experiences, strategies, and passion for mathematics with peers just beginning their journey. Becoming a mentor not only contributes to the growth of others but also solidifies your understanding of mathematical concepts as you explain them to others.

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Are there travel grants or virtual opportunities? 

Yes, and yes. HMMT offers an Online Tournament as a remote alternative for teams and math enthusiasts unable to attend the on-site event. Since November 2018, the HMMT Hydrogen system has automated the registration process. Participants can log in at the scheduled time, with the scoring system differentiating from on-site contests.

The Online Tournament does not include the February Team Round, but those interested can access the problems in the archive. The contest requires adherence to on-site rules, and proctoring is unnecessary. Results are not officially announced, but participants receive feedback on their answers. The website also provides information on regular tournaments, an archive of problems and results, and details about the organization.

What is the Application Process like?

  1. Registration
    Timeliness is crucial when it comes to HMMT registration. The math competition is highly sought after, and spots can fill up quickly. Register as soon as possible to secure your spot and demonstrate your commitment to the competition

  2. Assemble your Team
    Selecting the right teammates is vital for team events. Look for individuals with complementary strengths, as a diverse team is better equipped to tackle various mathematical challenges. Ensure effective communication and collaboration within your team.

  3. Required Materials
    Review the competition rules and gather all necessary materials, including identification, writing utensils, and any permitted references or computational aids. Being well-prepared minimizes stress on the competition day.

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