I’m about to head off to participate on the “alumni” team in a scrimmage for the Howard County and Baltimore County teams going to the American Regions Math League.
As the term “alumnus” connotes, I did this stuff myself back in high school. To be honest, I thought that it was pretty silly even then. It ends up emphasizing speed and trivia over deep understanding of mathematics. The various Olympiads are better, but still not great. There’s something in the society at large, though, that wants to reduce every single human activity to a contest, and mathematics for high school students is no exception. If I hadn’t already been studying more advanced material on my own, I could easily see ARML beating the enjoyment of mathematics out of me.
Still, some kids like running the races and like memorizing a billion little factoids. If they enjoy it, fine, and it’s close enough to real mathematics to make it worth encouraging. And so I do my part.