FAQs for Mathematicians

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions.


How will the SumThingsUp Challenge entries be judged?

There are three steps. First, the entries will be screened for accuracy by mathematicians.  Then, classes of schoolchildren will evaluate the screened entries, with each class considering five entries. Each child will be asked to rate the entries on five criteria. To see the rating form, click here. Teachers will compile their students’ ratings and submit them to us. Based on the students’ ratings, Finalists will be chosen and posted on the sumthingsupchallenge.org website. The student judges will then vote for their favorite among the Finalists.


Do I have to be a mathematician to enter?

Yes, this contest is for mathematicians.  We define that pretty broadly — as someone who has, or is in the process of getting, a graduate degree in mathematics or applied mathematics, or who is employed doing mathematical work, or who is retired from doing mathematical work. One of our missions at The SumThingsUp Challenge is to help mathematicians communicate better to the public.


Do I have to be in the United States to enter?

No, we welcome entries from mathematicians in any country.


Will you tell me what rating my entry received from the student judges? Will you tell me if my entry was ruled out by the scientific screeners?

No, we don’t have the resources to give individual feedback. At the end of the judging period, we will post the Finalist entries and contact the people who submitted them.


How can I improve my chances of winning?

Although mathematicians pride themselves on precise language, give thought and attention to the balance between the theoretical or technical accuracy of your answer and to the needs of  your audience – 3rd to 5th graders. If you can, try your answer out on some students and see how they react.  Look at the criteria students will be using to judge it here.  If you don’t have a sense of students in those grades, you could talk to a teacher or look at texts that are intended for them. Based on a similar competitions in another scientific subject students favored entries that contained a good deal of information in simple language. They liked humor, but didn’t like things they thought were silly or condescending.  By and large, they took their role as judges seriously.


Can you warn me about any pitfalls?

Try to avoid entries that include super-short answers, such as a one-sentence definition, and purely poetic entries that didn’t provide much factual information.


Can I team up with others on an entry?

Yes. We will accept entries from teams of no more than four mathematicians.


How many people will I be competing against?

We hope to receive more than 600 entries. We will have three winners — one for a video or graphic entry in each of the three grades. There will also be a runner-up in each of the three categories. For contest rules, please click here.

FAQs for Teachers

Do you allow home-schools to judge?

Yes, as long as the students are working as part of a team. We don’t want anyone working alone on this, but if there is a group of home-schoolers working together, have one representative register your group as a “judging school” and you will be in the loop to receive and judge entries.


Is this contest only open to mathematicians and student judges in the US?

No – we hope to have entries and student judges from all over the world! The only criterion is that entries must be in written/reviewed in English.


Do the judges have to be from the US?

No – we hope to have judges from all over the world!


How do I sign my class up to judge?

Click here.  As an additional step to make sure your entry has been successfully processed, please send an email to info@sumthingsupchallenge.org (the URL in the Contact section above) with your name, school, and grade in the subject line.


Is it all right for our school to set up our own rubric to judge the entries?

No. All judging is standardized and we have developed a simple form for students to fill out and return to their teacher. If you have suggestions for changes to next year’s form please email those to us for consideration in upcoming challenges.



The SumThingsUp Challenge
P.O. Box 658
Pacific Palisades, CA 90272




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