Ten Academic Competitions Suitable for Elementary and Secondary Students in Canada

In Canada, elementary and secondary students do not have a lot of homework to do, so they have some freedom to discover their own interests. Without the right guidance, however, students may dedicate all of their free time to play video games, which would ultimately hinder their intellectual growth. Fortunately, these young students have many opportunities to extend their learning. Every year, numerous national contests for subjects such as math, physics, and chemistry take place, many of which are suitable for students. These contests are not very difficult; only 25% of the questions are challenging. Moreover, these contests welcome all students as potential participants – not only those few who excel academically. The contests would help greatly in developing their understanding of academia and allow them to challenge themselves. A list of 10 such contests are as follows; we hope that parents will use this list to grasp the scope of the contests that are available to their children.


1. The Waterloo Mathematics Contests

Also known as the Canadian Mathematics Competition, the Waterloo Math Contests is a series of contests developed by University of Waterloo’s Centre for Education in Mathematics and Computing (CEMC). The contests are geared towards students from grade 7 to grade 12, and are named according to the different levels: the grade 7 and 8 contest is known as the Gauss Contest; grade 9, Pascal; grade 10, Cayley; grade 11, Fermat; and grade 12, Euclid. The contests first took place in 1963. The grades 7 to 11 contests consist of 25 multiple choice questions that add up to a maximum total of 150 points and have a time limit of one hour. The grade 12 Euclid contest is 2.5 hours long, although the number of questions remains the same. Usually, the grade 9—11 contests take place in February, the grade 12 contest takes place in April, and the grade 7—8 contests typically take place in May. Since 2003, the CEMC has developed another contest for grade 9—11 students. This contest consists of four questions that ask for full solutions, for a maximum total of 40 points over a duration of 75 minutes.


2. American Mathematics Competitions (AMC)

The AMC is the biggest mathematics contest in America, developed by the Mathematics Association of America. This contest began in 1950. Initially, the AMC was called the Annual High School Mathematics Examination.
The AMC consists of three tiers: AMC 8 (grades 7 and 8), AMC 10 (grades 9 and 10), and AMC 12 (grades 11 and 12). AMC 8 takes place annually during the month of November, while AMC 10 and AMC 12 take place in February. The AMC series welcomes participants from all over the world, although most come from the U.S. and Canada. Each year, hundreds of Canadian schools host the AMC.

The goal of the AMC contests is to enhance the mathematical skills of American teens, as well as develop their interest in math. The AMC plays a very important role in promoting math education in secondary schools across America. At the same time, the AMC is considered the top tier mathematics contest for America’s secondary students.

The AMC offers a wide range of awards: participants who receive perfect scores receive an award for excellence; the top student from each school receives a medal; the top three students from each school receive special certificates; and the participants with exceptional scores all receive certificates of recognition. In addition, the AMC awards prizes of acknowledgement for participants who are grade 6 or under. Finally, the scores for all participating schools are calculated, and the top three schools are recognized on the AMC website.

3. The Harvard-MIT Mathematics Tournament (HMMT)

The HMMT is a mathematics contest hosted by Harvard University and MIT for all American secondary school students. This contest requires considerable skill, as it contains difficult questions and a pressing time limit. It greatly challenges a student’s mathematics fundamentals. The individual competition is divided up into four categories: Algebra, Geometry, Combined Mathematics, and Calculus. Meanwhile, there are two types of group competitions: TEAM and GUTS. The TEAM competition allows for up to 8 people per group, and an individual may only participate in 2 individual competitions. HMMT is one of the biggest and most influential mathematics contests in America.


4. Canadian Open Mathematics Challenge (COMC)

The purpose of the COMC, other than to develop students’ interest in math as well as their problem-solving abilities, is to serve as qualification for the Canadian Mathematical Olympiad (CMO). Typically, only the top 50 participants in the COMC and the top-ranked student from each region are eligible for participation in the CMO. The COMC takes place in mid-November each year. Registration is open to all students.


5. The Euler Contest

[*Note: this series does not have a collective name; thus, for the sake of convenience, we are referring to this series as the Euler contest, although the latter is only one of the contests comprising the series itself]

These contests are designated by the Pierrefonds, QC Mathematics Contest Centre for students ranging from grades 3 to 9, allowing elementary students from grades 3 to 6 to get an early start in developing their interest in math and enhance their math skills. They also take place on a national level.

Each contest is of varying length: the Byron-Germain Contest is 45 minutes long; the Fibonacci Contest is 60 minutes long, and the Pythagoras Contest and its upper-level counterparts are 75 minutes long. All students who score above average on the contests receive a certificate, and the top student from each school receives a medal. The top student on the national and provincial levels will receive a special badge of recognition. Also, the first-, second- and third-ranked students nationally will receive monetary prizes of $200, $100, and $50, respectively. The Euler series takes place each year in April.


6. Canadian Mathematical Olympiad (CMO)

The CMO contest contains 5 questions that are to be answered in 3 hours and adding up to a maximum possible total of 35 points. Usually, the top 1000 students make up the Canadian national team and participate in the Mathematical Olympiad on an international level. The participants in the CMO are selected from the COMC and hence, not all secondary students are eligible to take the contest.


7. Canadian Computing Competition (CCC)

The Canadian Computing Competition is jointly organized by the Faculty of Computer Science at the University of Waterloo and the CEMC. The CCC gives secondary students an opportunity to enhance their computing and programming skills; the top students are selected to participate in the International Computing Olympiads. The CCC starts in February of each year.

Each annual CCC has two rounds. The first round takes place in participating schools and is divided into the Junior and Senior levels. The Junior level is reserved for students who have only taken one Computer Science course at school; other students are automatically enrolled in the Senior level. The second round takes place at the University of Waterloo over a period of two days. Only the top 25 students from the Senior level at the first round can enter the second round. The second round is also where the students for the national team are selected.


8. Michael Smith Science Challenge

The Michael Smith Science Challenge is geared towards grade 9 and 10 students. It is organized by the University of British Columbia. The contest was created to honour Professor Michael Smith, a Canadian recipient of the Nobel Prize for Chemistry. The contents of the contest deal with topics found in grade 9 and 10 science courses. It takes place annually in April or May.


9. Sir Isaac Newton Exam (SIN Exam)

The SIN Exam was first developed in 1969 by the University of Waterloo’s Department of Chemistry. It aims to encourage an interest in chemistry for secondary students and their teachers. If the winners of this contest enrol in the Chemistry Department at Waterloo, they can receive a scholarship of $5000 in their first year. They may also receive scholarships from the second year and onwards, although the amount will be decreased. The contest is nationwide and takes place in May.