Rules

The Hardest Math Problem Contest
2023-2024

General Provisions

The rules noted herein are subject to change and may, from time to time, be updated by The Hardest Math Problem Contest (HMP) management. All updates shall be announced publicly on the HMP website and through the HMP email newsletter.

It is the responsibility of participants to ensure their understanding of and compliance with the HMP rules.

Questions about the HMP rules should be sent to: hmp@hardestmathproblem.org

Some responses to questions about the HMP rules may be made public on the FAQ page of the HMP website.

The HMP management team welcomes questions regarding the registration or submission process, eligibility, or general HMP questions but shall not provide responses specific to the 2023-24 HMP Challenge Questions.

Failure to adhere to the rules noted herein shall be cause for disqualification from The Hardest Math Problem Contest. Determination of disqualification shall be at the sole discretion of the HMP management. Any decision of disqualification is final.

Registration

Team Size: Comprising one student (referred to in the Challenge Rules and ICS Dashboard as “Team”) and one teacher, parent, or guardian (referred to in the Challenge Rules and ICS Dashboard as “Coach”). A team cannot have more than one student.

Team Coach: All participating teams must have an adult Team Coach registered as a user on the Institute of Competition Sciences (ICS) online platform. Coaches must have a user account in order to submit Challenge answers for the HMP. The accounts are free and no charge to the Coach.

Limitations on the number of teams per Coach: There are no limitations on the number of teams (i.e. students) a coach may support.

Student Team Limitation: Students may be on no more than one team.

How to Enter: Challenge 1

Registration Process: Coaches must go to https://www.hardestmathproblem.org/register/ any time between September 18, 2023, at 12:01 a.m. Pacific Time and December 17, 2023, at 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time. You will be directed to the registration portal on the Institute of Competition Sciences (ICS) Dashboard to enter the registrant’s information.

Submissions: Using a template provided, Coaches will enter Team information and Challenge 1 answers for each of their students into one Google Document. Coaches will upload their completed Google Document as the Challenge 1 Submission on the ICS Dashboard.

Grade Level Requirements: Students may submit answers to questions at or above their current grade level to enter the competition. For each problem submitted, only one answer may be submitted.

Coach Requirement: ONLY A STUDENT’S COACH MAY SUBMIT THE ENTRIES. The Team Coach must submit the entries on the student’s behalf by uploading entries through the online entry portal at https://www.competitionsciences.org/.

Submission Deadline & Completeness: Entries must be uploaded by a teacher or parent/guardian at https://www.competitionsciences.org/ by December 17, 2023, at 11:59 p.m. PT. Each submission must be filled out completely to be considered for awards. The Institute of Competition Sciences and The Actuarial Foundation are not responsible for late submissions and typographical or other errors.

Unique Submissions: Each entry to the Hardest Math Problem must be the student’s own original work. If the Sponsor, The Actuarial Foundation, or their respective parent companies, subsidiaries, dealers, and dealer personnel, advertising and promotion agencies (collectively referred to as “Sponsors’ Related Entities”) discover at any time, during or after the contest, that an entry contains previously published and/or copyrighted material, the student and teacher who submitted the entry may be immediately disqualified and may be obligated to immediately return any and all prizes that may have been provided to them in connection with their entries.

How to Enter: Challenge 2

Invitations: Students who answered correctly in Challenge 1 will be invited to participate in Challenge 2. The HMP management will send an email to the Coaches of eligible students inviting them to participate in Challenge 2 on or around January 29, 2024. Only students who were invited to submit to Challenge 2 from Challenge 1 will be eligible.

Team Registration: Using the Google Document submitted by the Coach in Challenge 1, the HMP management will register a Team for each student that qualifies for Challenge 2. Coaches can access all qualifying Teams by navigating to their “My Teams” page on the ICS Dashboard.

Open Submission Dates: Challenge 2 will be open for submission from January 29, 2024, at 12:01 a.m. ET to March 3, 2024, at 11:59 p.m. PT.

Submissions: Coaches will have their students complete the Challenge 2 entry form and answer the question that corresponds with their qualifying grade level, by providing a numerical answer as well as a written explanation of their reasoning that makes a math argument to explain how they arrived at the solution. For each problem submitted, only one answer may be submitted.

Coach Requirement: ONLY A STUDENT’S COACH MAY SUBMIT THE ENTRIES. The Coach must submit the entries on the student’s behalf by uploading entries through the online entry portal at https://www.competitionsciences.org/.

Submission Deadline: Entries must be uploaded by a teacher or parent/guardian at https://www.competitionsciences.org/ by March 3, 2024, at 11:59 p.m. PT.

Eligibility: Challenge 1

Middle School Students in the US: The Hardest Math Problem Challenge 1 Contest (the “Contest”) is open to students in the fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth grades in one of the 50 United States, the District of Columbia, or United States territories, who are residents of the United States or its territories, and who attend a public school, accredited private school, or home school in compliance with the laws of its state.

Adult Coach Requirement: The submitting teacher or parent/guardian must be over 18 at the time of submission.

All Laws Applicable: The Contest is subject to all applicable federal, state, and local laws. The Contest is void where prohibited by law and in every territory other than the United States and its territories.

Ineligible Parties: Employees of Sponsor, or the Actuarial Foundation, their related entities, and their immediate families (spouse, parent, child, sibling, and their respective spouses and those living in the same household of each employee, whether or not related), and all other associated with the development and execution of this Contest and their immediate families (spouse, parent, child, sibling, and their respective spouses and those living in the same household of each employee, whether or not related) are not eligible to participate in the Contest.

Limitations: Limit one (1) submission per student per grade-level problem. Students may complete questions at their grade level or above. Questions below grade level cannot be completed.

Past Winners: Each student can only win a grade specific challenge once. For example, a student that wins a prize at the 7th grade level will not be eligible for awards at the 7th grade level in future HMP Contests.

Eligibility: Challenge 2

Invitations: The Hardest Math Problem Challenge 2 Contest (the “Contest”) is open to eligible students in the fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth grades who correctly answer the question in Challenge 1.

Challenge 2 Notification: Coaches of students who have qualified for Challenge 2 will be notified on or around January 29, 2024.

Adult Coach Requirement: The entry forms may only be submitted by the students’ teacher or parent/guardian, who must be over 18 at the time of submission.

Limitations: Limit one (1) submission per student per grade-level problem for each Contest.

Property of TAF: For both Contests, all Contest entries become the sole property of The Actuarial Foundation, and the receipt of Contest entries will not be acknowledged or returned.

Standards: Each entry must be in keeping with the image and standards of ICS and The Actuarial Foundation, and may not be offensive or inappropriate, as determined by these parties in their sole discretion. Furthermore, an entry may not defame or invade publicity rights or the privacy rights of any person, living or deceased, or otherwise infringe upon any person’s personal or property rights or any other third-party rights. The above parties reserve the right to disqualify any entry they deem to violate any of the above.

Student Qualifiers

Challenge 2 Qualifiers: Students who have correctly answered Challenge 1 will be invited to participate in Challenge 2.

Challenge 2 Notification: Coaches of students who have qualified for Challenge 2 will be notified on or around January 29, 2024.

Teacher Winners: Challenge 1

Eligibility: Three winning teachers will be selected at random from the list of eligible teachers. An eligible teacher is one that submitted at least three eligible entries (if a teacher has fewer than three eligible students in their class, that teacher will still be eligible to win).

Teacher Recognition Winners: The winning teachers (“Teacher Recognition Winners”) will be selected by ICS and The Actuarial Foundation from among all eligible entries on or about February 16, 2024.

Winner Notification: The Teacher Recognition Winners will be notified by email on or about February 19, 2024.

Award: The Teacher Recognition Winners will each receive a $300 American Express gift card for classroom/educational use (all coaches eligible), as well as a reimbursement of up to $200 for a classroom pizza party (formal classroom teachers only). Taxes on the prizes, if any, are the sole responsibility of the Teacher Recognition Winners. Teacher Recognition Winners should allow approximately six (6) to eight (8) weeks after notification and completion of affidavit for delivery of prizes.

Eligible Entries Required: The Teacher Recognition winners will be selected randomly from among all eligible entries received by ICS/TAF. ICS/TAF reserve the right to not award all prizes if, in their sole discretion, they do not receive a sufficient number of qualified and eligible entries in Challenge 1.

Student & Teacher Winners: Challenge 2 Prizes/Odds

Number of Winners: Three (3) Grand Prize winning students, one from the pool of entries for each of the sixth, seventh, and eighth grade problems, three (3) Runner-Up winning students, one from the pool of entries for each of the sixth, seventh, and eighth grade problems, and three (3) Honorable Mention winning students, one from the pool of entries for each of the sixth, seventh, and eighth grade problems, will be selected for among all eligible entrants. Grand-Prize, Runner-Up, and Honorable Mention winning students are collectively “Student Winners.”

Student Winners will be selected by ICS and The Actuarial Foundation from among all eligible entries and notified by email to the Coach who registered their entry on or about May 1, 2024.

Grand Prizes: The Grand-Prize Student Winners will each receive a laptop computer with Microsoft Office Home and Student Office products (Approximate Retail Value $550) and a $3,000 contribution to a 529 plan (a college savings account.

Runner-Up Prizes: The three Runner-Up Student Winners will each receive a tablet computer, which does not include a data plan (Approximate Retail Value $125), and a $2,000 contribution to a 529 plan (a college savings account).

Honorable Mention Prizes: The three Honorable Mention Student Winners will each receive a $1,000 contribution to a 529 plan (a college savings account).

Requirements for Winners: Regarding the 529 plan, (a) the parent or legal guardian of the Grand-Prize Student Winners will need to set one up if they do not already have one, and communicate the new or existing plan to The Actuarial Foundation so that the 529 contribution can be deposited, (b) the parent or legal guardian is responsible for any fees both based on the initial set up and any on-going fees or taxes associated with the plan/account, and (c) any restrictions of the 529 plan that they set up, or as governed by applicable law, will apply.

Delivery of a laptop or tablet requires the student’s home address.

Teachers of Winners: The nine teachers who submitted the entries of the Student Winners (the “Challenge 2 Teacher Recognition Winners”) will each receive a $300 American Express gift card for classroom/educational use (all coaches eligible), as well as a reimbursement of up to $200 for a classroom pizza party (formal classroom teachers only). Delivery of gift cards requires the teacher’s school address. (No PO Boxes.)

Judging: Challenge 2

The three potential Grand-Prize Student Winners and the three potential Runner-Up Student Winners will be chosen by a judge(s) employed by or volunteering for ICS and/or The Actuarial Foundation who apply the judging criteria to students’ numerical answer and written explanation of their reasoning. The judging criteria are delineated in the following numerical rubric:

  • Mathematical Reasoning (0-10 Points)
    • Takes valid, logical steps to solve the problem (and points out patterns or other math concepts where applicable)
    • Uses math vocabulary
      • Examples: quotient, quantity, dependent variable, distributive property
  • Clarity, Organization, and Precision (0-10 Points)
    • Explains their steps in an organized way
    • Balances the amount of detail
      • Enough detail to be clear (reader doesn’t have to figure anything out themselves), but not so much detail that it’s repetitive, confusing, or tiring to read
    • Attaches units to all numbers
      • Examples: hours/hrs, dollars/$, inch/”/in
    • Gives context of each number, especially when first used
      • Example: saying “the 5 cups of flour remaining in the bag” instead of just “5”
  • Presentation (0-5 Points)
    • Legible
    • Essay Length: half a page minimum; two pages maximum
    • Calculations (or graphs, charts, or diagrams, as applicable) are integrated into the essay body (not on a separate sheet)
  • BONUS—Innovation of Approach (0-3 Points)
    • Creative, non-traditional, or exceptionally efficient

The decisions of the judges are final and binding. TAF reserves the right to not award all prizes if, in their sole discretion, they do not receive a sufficient number of qualified and eligible entries.

Released Parties

Liability Release: By entering and submitting an entry, entrant and the submitting teacher agree to release and hold harmless the Sponsor, The Actuarial Foundation, and their parents, affiliates, subsidiaries, advertising and promotion agencies, prize suppliers, and all others associated with the development and execution of this Contest, and the respective officers, directors, shareholders, agents, and employees of the foregoing (collectively, the “Released Parties”) from any and all claims, injuries, damages, or losses to the person or property and/or liabilities of any nature that in any way arise from participation in this Contest or acceptance or use of the prize.

Affidavit of Eligibility: The Winners may be required to sign and return an affidavit of eligibility and liability/publicity release within ten (10) business days of notification attempt or an alternative winner may be selected.

Media Release: Subject to all applicable laws. By entering the Contest and/or accepting the prize, entrants and the submitting teachers grant to the Sponsors, and their designees the right to use their names, likenesses, hometowns, biographical information, school names, and entry for any lawful purposes, including advertising and promotional purposes, in any and all media now or hereafter known throughout the world, in perpetuity, without further notice, permission, or compensation, except where prohibited by law.

Extenuating Circumstances not the responsibility of Released Parties: The Released Parties are not responsible for interrupted or unavailable network, server, Internet service provider (ISP), website, or other connections; for lack of availability or accessibility or miscommunications due to failed computer, satellite, telephone, or cable transmissions or lines; for technical failure or jumbled, scrambled, delayed, or misdirected transmissions; for computer hardware or software malfunctions, failures, or difficulties; or for any other computer, network, technical, typographical, human, or other error, problem, or malfunction related to or in connection with the Contest, including, without limitation, errors, problems, or malfunctions that may occur in connection with the administration of the Contest, the announcement of the prizes, the processing or judging of entries, or any Contest-related materials.

Sponsor reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to cancel, terminate, modify, or suspend this Contest should (in their sole discretion) viruses, bugs, non-authorized human intervention, or other causes beyond their control corrupt or affect the administration, security, fairness, or proper conduct of the Contest. In such a case, ICS will select the Winners from all eligible entries received prior to and/or after (if appropriate) the action taken by ICS. All personal information collected in the entries will be retained by ICS in accordance with its privacy policy found at https://www.competitionsciences.org/privacy-policy/, and The Actuarial Foundation at actuarialfoundation.org/privacy-policy.

Release of Liability: The Released Parties are not responsible for any incorrect or inaccurate information, whether caused by site users, tampering, hacking, or by any equipment or programming associated with or utilized in the Contest and assume no responsibility for any injury or damage to participants’ or to any other persons’ computers (whether hardware or software), relating to or resulting from downloading materials or software in connection with this Contest.

Ownership of Contest Entries: Each entrant represents and warrants that The Actuarial Foundation shall own the entry and all rights in and to the entry submitted (including all rights embodied therein in winning entries). Further, by entering, the submitting teachers agree to abide by these rules. Teachers and students who do not comply with these Official Rules, or attempt to interfere with this promotion in any way, shall be disqualified. Prizes are non-transferable. No substitutions or cash redemptions.

Code of Conduct

All HMP participants are held to high personal ethical standards. We expect all participants to treat others with respect and courtesy. Participants should be considerate of the diverse backgrounds and perspectives of others. The decisions you make and actions you conduct during your participation in the competition should be honest and truthful to the best of your ability and should refrain from disparaging other participants in any way. We trust that you will not conduct yourself in a matter that tampers with the outcomes, fabricates submissions, or plagiarizes content. If at any point you are unsure about the ethical conduct of your team, please reach out to the HMP management for clarification. Failure to abide by the HMP Code of Conduct may result in the team’s disqualification from the challenge. All HMP participants shall adhere to the following codes of conduct.

Sportsmanship: Participants shall not make disparaging remarks about other participants of the HMP or their work. Participants are expected to conduct themselves according to the following rules of good sportsmanship:

  • Treat other participants, judges, mentors, staff, and volunteers with respect, regardless of race, sex, creed, ability or any other factor.
  • Encourage good sportsmanship in all participants and assist in maintaining a respectful environment for all. Provide positive support and encouragement to team members, and other teams alike.
  • Refrain from making offensive or disparaging remarks about another team’s project or participants. 
  • Refrain from making offensive or disparaging remarks about individuals supporting the HMP including but not limited to: personnel, staff, mentors, judges, and volunteers. Recognize that all supporters of the HMP are conducting themselves so as to organize and manage the best academic challenge possible. If you have a concern with the manner in which the HMP is conducted, follow the petition process mentioned below to bring up a specific concern.
  • Be courteous to opposing teams, judges, mentors, staff, and volunteers at all times.
  • Recognize that judges are donating their time and are doing their best to make unbiased, fair and timely decisions.
  • Accept the decisions of judges as final, and with good grace. If you have a specific concern with how the judging process was conducted you may bring it up with the HMP staff following the petition process mentioned below.

Harassment: The HMP does not tolerate harassment of participants in any form. Harassment can be on many types of media. It can be in-person or through virtual and online channels. Forms of harassment include but are not limited to: verbal comments, printed or written messages, and electronic messages. Harassment includes, but is not limited to:

  • Offensive comments related to race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, age, disability, physical appearance, body size, or religion
  • Deliberate intimidation
  • Stalking
  • Unwanted photography or recording
  • Inappropriate physical contact
  • Unwelcome sexual attention
  • Sexual imagery and language in public spaces

Plagiarism: Participants shall not plagiarize materials of any kind in their work for the HMP. Plagiarism includes, but is not limited to, the use of another’s words or ideas as if they are one’s own. Plagiarism and any kind of academic cheating are grounds for dismissal from the competition.

Use of Artificial Intelligence: The use of Artificial Intelligence (AI), including ChatGPT, to generate or modify Challenge answers is strictly prohibited. Students should not represent any work done by an AI as their own. The Actuarial Foundation and the Institute of Competition Sciences reserve the right to use AI Detection Technologies to check for AI-generated content in Challenge answers. If the Sponsor, The Actuarial Foundation, or the Sponsors’ Related Entities discover at any time, during or after the contest, that an entry contains material generated by Artificial Intelligence, the student and teacher who submitted the entry may be immediately disqualified and may be obligated to immediately return any and all prizes that may have been provided to them in connection with their entries.

Winners' Names

Winner Announcement: The names of the three Grand-Prize Student Winners, and the three Runner-Up Student Winners will be available on approximately May 24, 2024.

Announcement Platform: The Student Winners and Teacher Recognition Winners will be announced on the Contest website at https://www.hardestmathproblem.org/ and via email to all Challenge 2 participants. Names are listed as first name, last name initial, city/state.

Winner Photos: Parents are encouraged, but not required, to provide pictures and/or testimonials of winning students. With parental consent, TAF may use those pictures in communications to donors, newsletters and/or on social media.

Contest Management Organization

The Hardest Math Problem Contest is managed and operated by the Institute of Competition Sciences; https://www.competitionsciences.org/. For any questions or concerns regarding this Contest, please contact hmp@hardestmathproblem.org.