Skip to main content

Joy of Creative Math Problem Solving

San Ramon Classes
Creative Problem Solving
Working on Problems
Math In Space and Aeronautics
Math Games
Math Puzzles
Math Magic
Math Videos



Like games, contests have an appeal to many kids who enjoy the process of doing things to win something.  Therefore, math contests can be an activity that kids enjoy and that can encourage kids to work on math problems.  In the process of taking part of many contests, some kids come to start loving math.

Math competitions students can participate in include:

While benefits of math contests are clear, these have some downsides as well.  For example, if kids take part in competitions where they are not able to solve most of the problems, they may get frustrated with the process and may find these discouraging.  This could even reduce their interest in math. Secondly, kids who get too attached to the goal of outshining everyone else in the contest could experience burnout.

For these reason, Dr. Kulkarni has found that a new format of contests called CliffHanger Contests  that may hold appeal to wider group of kids and that may not suffer from the downsides of the traditional contests. These were also regarded as fun by a broad sprectrum of kids.

Cliff-hanger Competition are organized as follows:

(1)   Create teams  so that collective team skills are close to each other even though teams consist of kids with varying skills
(2)    Use problems that vary in difficulty from simple problems to creative problem solving type problems
(3)    Update scores on problem-by-problem basis
(4)    Structure the contest to keep suspense till last minute   

Suspense about who will win in a close contest creates lot of excitement similar to a basketball game on TV where game is close.  CliffHanger contest format is used in our in-class contests.