Students Compete in Harvard-MIT Math Tournament

Hundreds of high schoolers flooded the Science Center Saturday to compete in the Harvard-MIT Mathematics Tournament­—a prestigious competition that attracts students from across the country.

Harvard and MIT undergraduates were responsible for both planning and running the competition.

HMMT coordinators, along with close to 100 volunteers, wrote the problems, proctored and scored the tournament, and hosted the majority of competitors in their dorm rooms over the weekend, according to tournament co-director Paul E. Handorff ’14.

During the tournament, 90 teams of six high school students each spent Saturday morning puzzling through written sets of math questions as individuals and as teams. The competition ended with a final, fast-paced “guts round,” where teams received progressively harder sets of three questions, intended to test their mathematic skills as well as their problem solving efficiency.

Handorff described the final round, which uses a scoreboard to provide instant feedback to competitors, as the most exciting part of the event.


“[Students] know each time they turn a set of three [questions] in how many of them they got right and how they’re doing in relation to all the other teams,” said Handorff. “It’s easily the most fun part of the tournament for organizers as well as for students.”

A team hailing from Western Massachusetts won the competition, sweeping the individual and group question sections, as well as the guts round.

Aaron Landesman ’16, one of two head graders who like Handorff competed in HMMT as a high schooler, said the event allowed him to spend time with students from MIT. The organizers, he said, were about evenly split between undergraduates from each school.

He said the high schoolers appreciated the opportunity to visit Harvard’s campus and meet students from the both colleges.

HMMT, founded in 1998, occurs twice a year—once in February and once in November.

The February tournament, which is more challenging and attracts a larger and global audience, will be held at MIT.