The system of education that we find in the United States today is one where athletic achievement is more often than not prized above academic achievement. The importance of student participation in sports is undeniable and often underestimated. However, in an increasingly competitive economic landscape, global in nature, only an army of great minds can secure for our nation a continued position of strength and leadership. Therefore, it is our goal to create a mechanism, an event, which brings attention to the efforts of our nation’s students so that they might partake in society’s rewards as well, and in turn be driven ever closer to excellence. This is Math Madness.

Short Version

Leagues of round robin competition are to be organized across the country, based primarily on skill level, with the best performing teams continuing on to a bracket challenge. The league phase is scheduled to begin October 13th and last 4 weeks, to be followed by a bracket phase concluding on championship day, December 14th. There are to be 5 separate bracket tournaments/championships, each based on team size. The top 5-player teams are assigned to the Division I bracket; the top 10-player teams to the Division II bracket; the top 15-player teams to the Division III bracket; the top 20-player teams to the Division IV bracket; and the top 25-player teams to the Division V bracket. Each round of both the league and bracket phases lasts one week (Sun-Sat). Teams can play at any time during the week. All the members of a team play at the same time, but individually; collaboration is not allowed. The coach chooses the time that his/her team competes. This can be changed during the round and from round to round. If opposing teams share a common match time for any given round, they play live. Otherwise, the match is non-live and results are posted after both teams have concluded the match. Each school/association may field one team. Each team should have at least 5 members but teams are not limited to a maximum size. Of critical importance, there are no scoring drawbacks, nor technical limitations, to fielding as large a team as there are interested players during ANY round in the entire Math Madness Tournament. The design of both the Interstellar application, and this particular implementation, is meant to be inclusive. Each match lasts 30 minutes and is fueled by a question set containing approximately 10 questions, increasing in difficulty as the season progresses. A student receives a point for each question answered correctly. Students may be added to a team at any point throughout the entire season.

Long version

Interstellar is the web application that makes Math Madness possible. It features live, team-based, online academic competition over multiple choice and open entry questions. With it, an educator can create a virtual team of students and then arrange competitions for that team by dividing it into multiple teams that compete with each other, or by inviting another team in the Interstellar Network to a match. We call this brand of competition Pick-Up Play. Alternatively, an educator can enter his/her team into a cycle of regularly occurring contests organized by Interstellar. We call this brand of competition League Play.

Math Madness is a League Play event consisting of two phases: a league phase and a bracket phase. In the league phase, all participating teams from across the country are divided into leagues of 6 teams each. Leagues are arranged primarily according to skill level, with consideration given to common time availability, geographic proximity, network association, and other motivating factors. All teams in a league experience a total of 4 rounds of weekly competition lasting 30 minutes each. Matches are fueled by question sets containing approximately ten questions, with question difficulty increasing as the season progresses. All students take each test individually; collaboration is not allowed. During the match, a player receives one point for each question answered correctly. Team score during this phase is calculated and presented as a simple average of all competing player scores (absent players are never factored). Note, however, that this overall team score has no bearing on a team’s ability to advance to the bracket phase. This feature is intended to stimulate excitement, as well as to motivate performance.

During the league phase, a series of statistics is kept that determines bracket phase participants. For each match an average is taken of the top 5, 10, 15, 20, and 25 player scores of each team (where a team has fielded the requisite number of players for any of these 5 categories). At the end of the league phase, each team’s top 5-player score averages from all 4 matches are in turn averaged together, as are each team’s top 10, 15, 20, and 25 player score averages. The 64 teams with the highest top 5-player score average across all 4 matches in the league phase are assigned to Division I. The 64 teams with the highest top 10-player score average are assigned to Division II. The 64 teams with the highest top 15-player score average are assigned to Division III. The 64 teams with the highest top 20-player score average are assigned to Division IV. The 64 teams with the highest top 25-player score average are assigned to Division V. Note that a team’s composition may fluctuate throughout the league phase without affecting this process. When a team qualifies for more than one division, it is assigned to the division where it maintains its highest rank. When such a team’s rank is the same across two or more divisions, it is assigned to the division with the highest N player value. For a team to qualify for a division, it must field the minimum number of players corresponding to that division every match. For example, to qualify for Division I, a team must field at least 5 players during each round of the league phase. A separate bracket challenge is hosted for each of the 5 divisions.

In the bracket phase, teams are seeded and assigned positions such that the strongest teams face each other in the concluding rounds. This phase consists of 6 rounds of weekly competition (single elimination) lasting 30 minutes each, the last (6th) round consolidated into one championship day. As in the league phase, a student receives one point for each question answered correctly and all students take each test individually. However, team score is calculated and presented as a simple average of only the top N players, regardless of overall team size. This score determines the winner of each match in the bracket phase. In case of a tie, the top N player combination with the shorter average time to complete the match is adjudged the winner. For a team to advance in a bracket, it must field the minimum number of players corresponding to that bracket every match.

The coach of a team chooses the time that his/her team competes during any given round. It can be changed at any time during a round, and from round to round. All team members play at the time chosen by the coach. Opponent coaches are strongly encouraged to find a common time to compete. If one is decided upon, the match between the opposing teams is live. In this case, students from the opposing teams are matched to each other as evenly as possible based on past performance. The algorithm matches students 1:1, 2:1, 3:1, etc., as necessary so that all players have an individual opponent, no matter the discrepancy in team size. For example, if one team has 30 students and the other 10, students might be matched 3:1. In this case, for any given pairing, the 3 students from the larger team all see the score of the 1 player from the smaller team on the scoreboard. Conversely, the 1 player from the smaller team sees the score of the player in the opposing triad that is the best match to his/her ability. Note that the individual’s performance as against his/her matched opponent(s) has no bearing on a team’s ability to advance to the bracket phase, or within it. This feature is intended to facilitate interaction between teams, as well as to motivate performance.

If a common time cannot be decided upon, each team competes at its preferred time and the final team score posts once both teams have competed. During the match, each student plays against his/her own personal best score, which appears on the scoreboard. This is the equivalent of the student’s best performance to date. Note that the individual’s performance as against his/her personal best score has no bearing on a team’s ability to advance to the bracket phase, or within it. This feature is intended to motivate performance.

Note that depending on the number of students fielded per team throughout the league phase, division qualifications may be adjusted. For example, a structure of top 5/10/20/50/100 might be more appropriate if turnout per team is especially large. More generally, this multiple bracket/scoring approach is intended to advance the following goals: a) stimulate greater participation amongst students of all levels of ability without sacrificing traditional winning strategy; b) identify and highlight those schools and teachers who excel in educating large numbers of students to high achievement in mathematics; c) give a greater number of students and teams the opportunity to compete in a bracket that has, hopefully, significance to them. That said, ultimately we look to student and teacher feedback over the course of the season to guide us going forward. Please send us your feedback through the ‘Contact Us’ link. It is very welcome.

Math Madness is open to high schools, home-school associations, and to a limited number of high-performing middle schools. Each school/association may field one team. Each team should have at least 5 members but teams are not limited to a maximum size. Of critical importance, there are no scoring drawbacks, nor technical limitations, to fielding as large a team as there are interested players during ANY round in the entire Math Madness Tournament. The design of both the Interstellar application, and this particular implementation, is meant to be inclusive. A practice round where teams are randomly paired for a scrimmage will be held. This round will allow us to determine (a) if network filters are set in various schools that could disrupt competition events, which must then be modified or removed; (b) a skill level ordering on which to base the even formation of leagues; (c) each team’s likely preferred time to compete, which will be utilized in league formation to maximize the possibility that teams play live during the league phase. In addition, the practice round will give students and teachers a good opportunity to familiarize themselves with the application. Because the advantages are many, and of critical importance, PARTICIPATION IN THIS PRACTICE ROUND IS MANDATORY.

The league phase is scheduled to begin October 13th and last 4 weeks, to be followed by a bracket phase concluding on championship day, December 14th. Note that the Thanksgiving week may be exempted from play if a majority of remaining teams so choose, in which case the event will be extended one week further.

Rules/Tips

  1. A calculator (e.g., any of the TI line including the Nspire) is permitted during any competition event, as well as are pens, pencils, and empty scratch paper.
  2. Each student must have access to a single computer terminal with internet access. Desktops and laptops are strongly recommended as not all tablet models/sizes have been tested to date.
  3. Only one browser with one tab directed to the Interstellar website may be opened. No other computer programs may be opened or in use.
  4. Students are strongly encouraged NOT to use any early version of Internet Explore as images occasionally do not render in this browser. Chrome, Firefox, and Safari are recommended.
  5. On rare occasions, time on the clock in the match arena may slow down (a browser phenomenon) or there may be network issues (poor connection speed) affecting the proper presentation of time. Regardless of the time that might remain on the clock, the application server automatically terminates each session when the precise moment for the conclusion of the match arrives. Students are therefore encouraged not to wait until the very last second on the time clock to submit their final answer.
  6. Students must compete together from a school location under coach supervision. Exceptions to this may be made upon request.
  7. All participants are respectfully asked to refrain from uploading or sharing offensive material, be it lewd, graphic, profane, or otherwise. Let’s keep this clean.
  8. At this time, only one coach can be assigned per team. Please feel free to share activated coach credentials where more than one coach is involved.
  9. Students must accept their invitation BEFORE the Match Time selected by the teacher arrives. Otherwise, they will not be able to play that round (technical requirement), although they will be set for future rounds once activated.
  10. While a coach may change the team’s Match Time, the team must not miss it once set. If this time comes and goes, the match cannot be rescheduled for that round.
  11. If student emails are being filtered by a school’s network, the teacher should have the tech admin whitelist IP address 192.254.125.176 (administrator@in-ter-stel-lar.com) and then re-send invitations. Alternatively, the teacher may wish to send to non-school email addresses (which have rarely been problematic). Always make sure students check their SPAM folder.
  12. For an "activated" student to play, all he/she needs to do is be logged in at the Match Time selected by the teacher. The questions will automatically be presented – there is no additional student or teacher action required. A late student may still participate, but allotted time will be diminished proportionally.
  13. Students can be added to a team throughout the season. Moreover, there is no need to rotate: any activated student who logs in at the Match Time, plays.
  14. Please be aware that the information presented here may change from time to time as we receive feedback from students and teachers.
  15. Please email all questions to tkelley@maa.org or timothy@in-ter-stel-lar.com but note that time will be scarce so kindly familiarize yourself thoroughly with this document and the application itself (there are numerous question mark symbols throughout the application pages that can provide additional information when clicked) before forwarding questions along.