Purple Comet! Math Meet Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Purple Comet! Math Meet?
The Purple Comet! Math Meet is a free, on-line, international, team, mathematics competition designed for middle and high school students conducted annually since 2003.
Where does the Purple Comet! Math Meet come from?
The Purple Comet! Math Meet is a collaboration between
Dr. Jonathan Kane and
Dr. Titu Andreescu who together design the contest and write the contest problems. Dr. Bennette Harris wrote the original software that runs the contest website. Sobitha Samaranayake currently provides the web support for the Purple Comet! website.
For many years the contest was housed at the University of Wisconsin - Whitewater where each of the collaborators worked. The contest is now run by AwesomeMath.
Who may participate?
There are competitive teams and non-competitive teams. Any person may participate on a non-competitive team. Any student anywhere who has not completed high school and has not reached the age of 20 years old at the time of the competition may compete on a competitive team. Each team is required to have an adult supervisor.
What is the difference between a competitive team and a non-competitive team?
Students competing on a competitive team must qualify by satisfying age, grade, and school criteria. Competitive teams are eligible for award certificates, and winning teams have their team name and results posted on the contest website. Non-competitive teams have no age, grade, or school restrictions. Members of non-competitive teams only receive certificates of participation and their team results are never posted on the contest website.
Why does a team need an adult supervisor?
Since students participate in The Purple Comet! Math Meet from thousands of places around the world and over a full ten-day period of time, the contest relies on adult supervisors to maintain the integrity of the contest and enforce the contest rules.
Why do you collect students' names and team gender information?
We require a list of the names of students competing on each team so that we can assure that no student competes on more than one team, and so that we can produce award certificates and certificates of participation for all students. We never post students' names on our website, nor do we share this information with anyone. We have started to collect gender information about teams to help us determine how well we are serving students of both genders, and to track the performance of male and female students over the years.
Can a student compete even if no teacher at the student's school is willing to supervise a
Yes, the adult supervisor for a team does not need to be a teacher. For example, parents of interested students have often served as team supervisors.
How many teams may enter from one school?
There is no limit to the number of teams from a single school.
May more than one teacher from a single school supervise teams from that school?
Yes, often one teacher will supervise teams made up of their students while other teachers supervise other teams in the school.
How many students can compete on one team?
A team may have 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6 students.
Can team members work together to solve contest problems?
Yes, this is encouraged. In fact, many contest problems are specifically designed to be solved as a collaboration between students. During the contest teams can choose to divide up the work by assigning some problems to each team member or they can choose to work on problems in a collaborative manner. Successful teams combine both of these strategies.
How can a supervisor start the contest clock for some but not all of their teams?
When a supervisor logs in, they should display "My Team List". The first column in the team list display is "Which Contest". In this column select a contest for each team whose clock you wish to start. Then click the "Start The Clock!" button. Only the clocks for the teams for which you selected a contest will start.
What is the difference between the middle school and the high school levels?
The middle school contest consists of 20 mathematics problems to be completed in 60 minutes. The high school contest consists of 30 mathematics problems to be completed in 90 minutes. The problems for the middle school contest cover topics in arithmetic, elementary algebra, elementary geometry, simple counting and probability, and facts about prime factorizations and divisibility of numbers. The problems for the high school contest cover a wider range of topics including advanced algebra, geometry, combinatorics, probability, trigonometry, conic sections, functions, and so forth. No problems from either contest require techniques from calculus.
Why are there four categories for teams?
After the competition, the contest website will display a list of winning teams. The list distinguishes teams from large school, teams from small schools, and teams comprised of students who do not all attend the same school.
Can a single student compete as an individual?
Yes, a team may compete with as few as one student on the team. The contest is designed for teams of up to six students, so students from small teams should not expect to complete many of the contest problems in the allotted time.
Do all the members of a team need to attend the same school?
No, there is a category of mixed teams which is for teams comprised of students who do not all attend the same school. This category is designed for homeschooled students as well as for students who belong to a regional mathematics club (math circle).
If our school has students through the ninth grade, may the ninth graders compete on a middle school team?
No, any team with a student beyond grade eight must compete as a high school team.
May middle school students compete on the high school contest?
Yes, a student who qualifies as a middle school student may compete on the high school contest.
May a student compete both as a middle school student and a high school student?
Yes, a team of middle school students may enter the contest twice, once competing as a middle school team and once competing as a high school team. Alternatively, a middle school student can be a member of one middle school team and a different high school team.
Can students use calculators or computers to help solve the contest problems?
Yes, even though all contest problems are designed so that they can be worked without the aid of a calculator or computer, students are allowed
to use these devices to help them solve problems. If a computer is used, only computer programs stored locally may be used. Students may not
search the Internet to find information or programs to help them solve contest problems.
Can students consult books or notes during the contest?
Yes, students may read any books or notes available to them locally. Students may not use the Internet to access information not stored at their
Can students ask the adult supervisor for help during the contest?
No, supervisors may not help students with any aspect of solving contest problems. Team members cannot receive help with any mathematics, with
any definition, or with any translation of words during the contest from any person not on their own team.
Can students search the Internet during the contest to find information that can help them solve contest problems?
No, this is specifically prohibited. Students may use reference materials at their contest site, but they may not access the Internet to get help.
Can the adult supervisor enter answers for students?
No, students must enter their own answers. Exceptions to this rule might be granted by contest judges in cases where students on a team have
disabilities making it difficult for them to enter contest answers. For example, exceptions might be granted to a team of blind students.
Do all students on a team need to be in the same location during the contest?
No, as long as all team members are being supervised to ensure that all contest rules are being followed, students from the same team can compete
from different locations.
More than one student from a team may log into the contest website and submit solutions to contest problems. Solutions submitted by team members
at one site will be visible to team members at a second site.
When does a team find out how well they have done on the contest?
Solutions to contest problems will be posted shortly after the end of the contest. A list of winning teams will be posted several days after the
completion of the contest. Team supervisors get a complete report of the results of their teams scored, and they receive downloadable certificates
for each team member.
Will winning teams get prizes?
Prizes? Why do we need prizes? Actually, since it is impossible to monitor whether contest rules are uniformly followed at each contest site,
the distribution of prizes with high economic value would provide the wrong incentives to teams. The contest staff intends to make available
to team supervisors certificates suitable for printing. These certificates will indicate each team's achievement. Occasionally, the contest
receives donations of nominal prizes which will be mail to winning teams.