It is great that the AMS is able to conduct this competition which values and encourages mathematical talent. While sports are usually celebrated, it is wonderful that students interested in mathematics can also be encouraged. I sincerely hope that many more students gain the opportunity to participate in this competition.
Thanks for your interest in Who Wants to Be a Mathematician! Questions from the game are taken from pre-caculus math and can include algebra, geometry, trigonometry, probability, combinatorics, math history, and logic. Most contestants are in high school, but we've had some students in 8th grade qualify. For all games we ask a teacher (or parent or Math Circles organizer for home-schooled students) to administer a 15-minute qualifying test. If you're interested in competing, please have your teacher email us at paoffice at ams dot org, with his or her name, school, and the courses he or she is teaching in the fall semester, and we'll send information about qualifying.
For the national Who Wants to Be a Mathematician game, held in conjunction with the annual Joint Mathematics Meetings in January, we have teachers in schools in the U.S. administer the Round One qualifying test (either online or with paper copies) and proctor it. Registration is closed for this year, but each fall the Round One test is available for two weeks, usually from mid-September to the end of September or beginning of October. No calculators, internet, books, or other help is allowed. Those who score 8 or above (out of 10) in Round One qualify for the Round Two test, which also lasts for two weeks, but which is harder. After the Round Two test, we select qualifiers from 9 regions in the U.S. and the local area surrounding the Joint Mathematics Meetings host city based on their scores on the test, and let the teachers of those students know.
The online qualifying tests are provided by our Technology Sponsor, Maplesoft. Due to federal law, students under 13 must take the paper version of the national qualifying test.
Tie-breakers. Because there are so few semifinal slots available for the national game and so many good students across the country, we often have many ties for first in a region. In addition to the scores, further considerations for contest selection are the closest answer on a particular qualifying test question (one that involves an approximation, usually question 10), gender (an effort is made to include an equal number of males and females), and grade (a high school senior receives preference over younger students who will have another chance before they graduate).
We hold regional Who Wants to Be a Mathematician contests as well, usually by invitation from a host university or from the organizer of a special event, like a Sonia Kovalevsky Day. When we hold regional games we or the local organizer contact math teachers, math department chairs, and local math organizations to invite them to administer a qualifying test to interested students.
The game is loads of fun and you have a chance to win cash and prizes, so ask your math teacher to contact us!